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Movies #10 - Maniratnam's Guru, Casting

Update: Guru Movie Review

I've had mixed opinions about Maniratnam's abilities to cast stars in his movies. Since he can extract top notch work from even novices, he doesn't get many critics/audience to talk about the choice for a particular role - because there aren't any memorably bad performances in his movies for us to think of alternatives. For a debutante, Saranya in 'Nayagan' is a good choice; speaking of veterans, Rajinikanth and Mammootty seemed a perfect fit in 'Thalapathi'; the choice of Shamli in 'Anjali' is beyond questions. But I thought Madhavan didn't fit into 'Kannathil Muthamittal' and 'Aayudha Ezhuthu' - the former role demanded a man who is soft and firm, a man of principles, convictions; and the latter demanded a hooligan who is merciless to the core. Madhavan has a profile which perfectly fits for soft characters, like the one he did in 'Alaipayuthey'. He couldn't even manage a decent Madras baashai and seemed out of place in both the movies. Nagarjuna seemed uncomfortable in 'Gitanjali'. Maneesha Koirala didn't display the mental toughness expected of a terrorist in 'Dil Se'.

Now, coming to 'Guru', my first fear factor is Mallika Sherawat. For a director of Maniratnam's stature, he can do away with item numbers which feature beautiful female forms in meagre clothes. Is that really necessary when you have a strong storyline? In fact, I think it's Maniratnam who invented the idea of having a popular actress appear for just one song, just to satisfy that ogle-eyed, lust-hungry audience. I hope her role in 'Guru' has more weightage and less exposure, if you know what I mean. I haven't seen any of Vidya Balan's movies/scenes, hence I can't comment about her choice in this movie.

And then comes Madhavan. He is an unimpressive actor who can be his best at doing cameo roles and good at supporting roles. Very evident from teasers that Madhavan will play a subdued part. Maniratnam hangs on to his proteges and with Madhavan, it's been a long association. Directors have their favourite actors: Kurosawa - Mifune, Scorsese - De Niro, Spielberg - Hanks. These bonds were based on scripts and the ability of the actor to portray the character. But Madhavan continues to appear in Maniratnam's movies and plays characters beyond his comprehension beacause he still has some value in the cinema market and accepts roles for whatever Maniratnam promises to pay him - I guess.

Maniratnam introduced Aishwarya Rai to the movie world. In the little known, but superbly crafted and brilliantly entertaining 'Iruvar', Aishwarya Rai made her debut and enchanted the sophisticated audience. Because of the theme and content, the movie didn't reach across the layer-1 crowd, but their second outing together promises to be a commercial blockbuster. Many consider Rai to be overrated. I don't belong to that crowd. She has a certain charm and also the potential to play serious roles. But the problem with Hindi cinema industry is that there aren't many quality writers to feed talented actors. Trailers show her a steadfast wife to the hero. Maniratnam doesn't treat his woman leads as sex toys or walking/talking dolls - they actually play a character. I'm happy about Aishwarya's choice.

Abhishek Bachchan seems to be a promising star. I haven't seen his movies yet, but as an insomniac rapidly browsing channels in the night time, I have seen a few clippings of him in action and he's not bad at all. But the story spans thirty years of Guru's life and to play something like that, you need an actor who is not only keen and observant, but mature and talented. Kamal Haasan comes to my mind immediately for his performance in 'Nayagan' (in spite of comparisons to Al Pacino and Marlon Brando). This role will be a litmus test for his maturity and knowledge of the art. Does he have it in his genes?

Here's a review of the songs
Here's a prelude to Maniratnam's Guru.

5 Responses to “Movies #10 - Maniratnam's Guru, Casting”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    ArvindSaami used to be Mani's favorite inclusion...not any more...Madhavan and ArvindSaami, both have very bad Tamil dialogue delivery...


  2. # Anonymous randramble

    Good read...

    IMHO, Mani mostly doesn't cast based on what the role demands. He usually goes for stars or those people whom he's comfortable with. As you said, it doesn't matter much ultimately since he extracts decent performances from everyone.

    As for Mallika Sherawat, I think it's more to satisfy distributors than the audience.  

  3. # Blogger Prasad Venkataramana

    Yes, Mallika Sherawat has the capacity to attract audience. But if her presence hinders the flow of the story or if she happens to be a flash-in-pan song girl, the movie might lose some grip on it's audience it would've had.  

  4. # Anonymous Anonymous

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  5. # Anonymous Anonymous

    oh come on
    M did a pretty decent job in kannathil
    and the silver lining of ayudha..


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