Britain's top pop artiste, Tom Pickle, travels to Bombay, India, circa 1960s to learn to play the sitar (musical instrument) from renowned maestro Ustad Zafar Khan. Tom is taken to Zafar's ... See full summary »
Britain's top pop artiste, Tom Pickle, travels to Bombay, India, circa 1960s to learn to play the sitar (musical instrument) from renowned maestro Ustad Zafar Khan. Tom is taken to Zafar's home, where he gets to meet his wife and several daughters, and the maestro himself. Zafar never has had a disciple as Tom, and is clearly disappointed with his lack of respect. Nevertheless, he asks him to travel to Banares with him. Also accompanying them is a young Caucasian woman named Jenny, who Zafar has taken a liking to, much to his wife's displeasure, and who is more respectful of him than Tom. In Banaras, they get to meet Zafar's aging Guru, and his mistress, Ghazala, who is expecting a child soon. Zafar hopes that it will be a son. Zafar's Guru is quite disappointed with him for having Tom and Jenny as his disciples. An over-awed and overwrought Jenny decides to take it easy - and it is then she witnesses the murder of a courtesan. Watch as events unfold in this peaceful town of Banaras ... Written by
Utpal Dutt is very good as a master sitar player in India who doesn't seem to get much respect or adoration from his own people, but soon finds himself saddled with two British students: a wide-eyed, worshipful young girl interested in musical and spiritual enlightenment, and a carefree pop superstar who doesn't care if he gets enlightened or not. Lots of incredible sitar playing (notice how many different pronunciations of 'sitar' there are!) and mod '60's fashions, but a meandering story that makes all its points within the first half-hour. Dutt is both compelled and repulsed by the pop star's decadent world, and their like-hate relationship becomes a spiritual tug of wills. Michael York, sporting a thick crop of cinnamon-colored hair and talking with a Limey accent, plays the visiting celebrity with a snide kind of casual indifference, which is perfectly right for the character, but it does nothing for the audience and he elicits little interest; Rita Tushingham (reunited with York from 1967's "Smashing Time") overworks her perky nature and large, round eyes, yet her character hasn't been given many dimensions beyond what we are made to quickly sense (that her aimlessness led her to India and what she really needs is a man in her bed). As directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant--who would become long-time partners and filmmakers--"The Guru" isn't bad; the locations are great and there are intermittent bits of satire that are certainly fashionable (for 1969, especially), yet ultimately there is too much ambiance and not enough plot. ** from ****
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