Like chicken tikka masala prepared by careless American chefs, Daisy von Scherler Mayer’s Hollywood-meets-Bollywood quasi-musical “The Guru” suggests that some things should stay on their respective continents. Fortunately, Artsweek bomb sniffers Jessica and Drew sat through Heather Graham’s musical debut so you don’t have to.
“The Guru” began to look like a boo-boo when its star, charismatic newcomer Jimi Mistry, auditions for a the lead in a porno by sliding into the room in boxers, socks and sunshades in a carbon-dated parody of Tom Cruise’s “Risky Business.”
Drew: I think I saw ALF do that same joke in the mid-’80s. He was singing into a cucumber.
Mistry’s “Grease”-worshipping innocent enters the world of smut films like the Roman-themed “Glad-He-At-Her” to crack into the world of real acting. Instead, porn star Sharonna (Heather Graham) transforms him into the Guru of Love – and steals his heart in the process.
Jessica: Neat how they cast the most American-looking girl on the planet.
As Sharonna (and her film persona, Senator Snatch), Graham makes wooden dialogue even more wooden.
“When we come, we let go of our fears. And when we let go of our fears, we touch our soul. The way I look at it, my pussy is the door to my soul,” Graham says, her bulging kewpie doll eyes conveying no sign of human life.
J: You can have a thyroid disorder that makes your eyes bug out like that… There are a lot of other problems that go along with that, but buggy eyes is one of them.
While Drew and Jessica pondered how Graham had stumbled into such blockbuster projects as “Boogie Nights,” “Austin Powers 2” and “Twin Peaks,” they waded through the film’s promising but continuity plagued plot. “The Guru” briefly glimpses cinematic perfection when a color-saturated Bollywood-style dance sequence explodes into a turbaned, bindi-dotted parody of “You’re the One That I Want,” with Mistry and Graham playing the Sandy and Danny parts. Too often, however, it collapses into a generic romantic comedy under the weight of a messy subplot involving Marisa Tomei at the depths of her career slump.
D: Marisa, you won an Oscar! Shame on you!
Only Mistry emerges unscathed, partly because he’s new to the American screen, but also because he emanates a natural stellar charm.
It’s too bad, because Indian culture has a lot it could share with its American cousin. So far, Ravi Shankar, Apu from “The Simpsons” and the guy from “Office Space” are its most recognizable ambassadors. A more polished Indian import could one day make it big, but the cross-cultural bridge won’t be “The Guru.”
D: India has every reason to hate the United States for this.