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Mdeii Life - Anand Krishnamoorthi's blog

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Masculine Fixation of the Heroic Villain—A Critical Review of Mani Ratnam's Greceo-Capitalistic, Anti-feministic Discourse, "Guru"

I have many problems with Mani Ratnam's Guru. The least of its follies is that it is patently capitalistic, but its bigger message is what is hidden in its quasi-ontological implications. While on the topic of the general Greco-Capitalist mindset that pervades Indian mainstream thinking, the moral bankruptcy of Mani Ratnam in indicating that making profits is good, has made it very clear why he is in this business.

Coming from a country in which filmmakers like David Dhavan and Yash Chopra have spurned profits to veritably devote their lives to make meaningful cinema, Mani Ratnam shames their glorious names by proving that his aim includes making money, and in not letting cinema do its natural duty of enlightening and educating the masses. The poverty of the masters has been dealt a fiery blow with this film.

Getting to the more sinister aspects of Guru, we find that in his purveyance of capitalistic entertainment, Mani Ratnam's undercurrent gender stereotyping is only too obvious. Why is the protagonist male? Why cannot a woman or a gender minority have been named Gurukanth? In his denail of the non-male, Gurukanth can only naturally be male. And therefore an anti-feminine capitalist.

The Dutch-German feminist scholar Marta Nettrich-Kahn, in her seminal essay A Falsification of Progesterone (Fem-Sci, Vol 23, Issue 5, 1967) studies the phenomenon of maleness as that of being essentially non-female. Her essay also states that the fundamental male-female dialectic also produces a synthesis of the third androgyn, that evolves to encompass a phenomenology of rhetorical passivity. That is why, Nettrich-Kahn feels, the portrayal of the male in popular discourse often always entails the suppression of the female epistemen, while consciously isolating the non-congruation of the fifth transformation.

Mani Ratnam's Guru is a classic example of what Nettrich-Kahn goes on to describe as the profiteering phallic bourgeoisie. Almost all collectivist (female) syllogism are violently replaced by a domineering individualistic (male) gaze. The scene in which Gurukanth's wife is shown crying is a classic example of this. The train represents the phallus, and her journey on it represents her submission to the wills of the male guardian, who's discourse this entire film is based upon.

This capitalistic masculinity of the film also creates no space for the discussion of non-heterosexual phenomenology. The suppression of the female, and the left, and the south, is also extended to the suppression of the queer. By showing Gurukanth as being heterosexual, Ratnam also denies space for homosexual plasticism. In the initial scenes, an implication of a queer reading, scares Mani Ratnam into conventional right-wing narration, thereby proving his anti-gay tendencies.

The French enlightenment thinker Rene Chayreque defined the world of pictorial discourse as being of two types: The ones that move in the realm of the oppressed, and the others that move in the realm of the capitalist. The Chayreque Dialogue as it is more popularly known, defines the very foundations of motion picture in India. The capitalistic heterosexual masculinity of the total in its quest for shareholder maximisation, denies the emasculation of the female and the queer oppressed.

Noted Malayali film critic Kollam Kondozhi Kunnath in his description of TV Chandran's recent film Aadum Koothu, introduces the concept of the Madrasi Chickku in describing female actresses. The Madrasi Chickku is defined by over pigmentation and a general disfigurement of the countenance. Mani Ratnam's company is called Madras Talkies; therefore his depiction of the female conforms to these identified distortions. Further proving that Ratnam's decision to name his company so, is a deliberate attempt to bias his film output against the female. The film is also dangerously casteist in its refusal to showcase any non-brahmin characters. But that is to be expected of all of Ratnam's post Roja material, and therefore will not be dealt with in detail here.

If at-all there is one thing Guru is to be praised for, it is in its rightful portrayal of the character of Mallika Sherawat. The Turkish belly-dancer, is the only character that really stands up to the bourgeois trickery of the gambling male. But naturally, having introduced such a character, Ratnam, very quickly moves the action to India, as the Turkic revolutionary is too threatening to the fundamental morphology of the film, that deals with a status-quoist, middle-class, heterosexual urbanism.

Another place where Guru fails miserably is in its refusal to discuss, or even acknowledge the dangers of global warming. Since the recent UN report "unequivocally" recognises human causes for rise in sea levels, the film, which involves human characters and is set in Bombay, a coastal city, is only cynically cruel in its conscious avoidance of its moral obligation. Ratnam, is therefore naturally, a global-warming denier. Gramsci called the globe, The Mother, paving way for Gorky's book by the same name. Ratnam's refusal to deal with issues involving The Mother, is truly consistent with his depiction of the Madrasi Chiccku.

Overall, the film fails with its critically perverse notions of entertainment at the cost of moral purity. It is certain that the screening of this film would enrage anyone with a conscience. The Andolestic monastic Krishacharya was prophetic when he said that (the) right is always the wrong. Guru being rightwing Greco-Capitalistic, Anti-Female, Anti-Queer, Anti-Dalit, Anti Global-Warming and heartless, is certainly and emphatically "wrong"!

- Dr. (Mrs.) Valentina Dimitrieva Pandey
MA (lit.) MPhil (illit.) PhD(corres.) M.A.S. University, Darjeeling

(The writer is the Randal Zakuroff Chair of Gender Studies at the Department of Social Sciences, at the University of St Petersberg, Russia. She lives with her husband Acharya Somuchidononanda Pandey, and twenty two children in the Malyeshi suburb of St.Petersberg. She can be contacted at

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7:26 pm


Comments to The Masculine Fixation of the Heroic Villain—A Critical Review of Mani Ratnam's Greceo-Capitalistic, Anti-feministic Discourse, "Guru"

lol! shoka keedhu ba.

posted by Blogger I 

10:15 pm, February 20, 2007

Seriously, man, (just) for a while, I was flabbergasted!

posted by Anonymous Anonymous 

12:47 am, February 21, 2007

LOL. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post.

A little over kill though. Nevertheless, very enjoyable.

posted by Blogger Premalatha 

2:09 am, February 21, 2007

:) Can't help laughing loud. BTW do you have an actual reference to one such reviewer.

posted by Anonymous Subbudu 

9:51 am, February 21, 2007

//I have many problems with Mani
Ratnam's Guru.//
what can i say... it sums it all in the first line

posted by Blogger Prasad 

10:18 am, February 21, 2007

wise, very wise (crack!). Arnold Swarna segar in raw deal "Smart I like smart asses ..."

posted by Anonymous Anonymous 

11:45 am, February 21, 2007

While the argument of capitalistic debauchery lacks Real juice, it makes up for it with the heterosexual Tropicana.

posted by Anonymous Suman 

12:54 pm, February 21, 2007

I bow to you master.

posted by Blogger Ravikiran 

7:40 pm, February 21, 2007

See the abstract art title generator
It could help in future posts :-)


posted by Blogger subbudu 

7:43 pm, February 21, 2007

first time it was funny - now its just crying for attention... enought already

u used to write good prose - stick with it, and drop these stunts..

posted by Anonymous ram 

12:59 am, February 22, 2007

Hilarious, Kingsley and I loved it!

posted by Anonymous Divya 

10:09 am, February 22, 2007

My goodness! Anand, this is a masterpiece!

posted by Anonymous Sharada 

7:33 pm, February 22, 2007

Anand, lol at that!!! Superb satire...

I'm trying to do pretty much the same thing in my attempt here:

Since you seem to be good at this sort of thing, may I ask for a review?

posted by Anonymous hari 

7:37 pm, February 22, 2007

You forgot Mani Ratnam's evil conspiracy to omit all references to Canada in any of his films, hence denying that county's proven existence. The fiend.

posted by Blogger Anand 

8:47 pm, February 22, 2007

Hindu athigama padichaa ithu thaan effectu :)

Loved the piece. Well written satire.

posted by Anonymous Saravanan 

11:40 pm, February 22, 2007

Karthik and Chitra regret to announce the sad demise of Mrs. Pandey, who passed not very peacefully into what we hope is a better world; due to the act of a plain speaking man who objected to the use of the phrase quasi-ontological; the cold blade of whose dagger passed cleanly through the left ventricle of Mrs. Pandey's heart.She leaves her 20 children and a husband who has resolved, understandably, never to write again.We share your sorrow, she was a mighty good cook.

posted by Anonymous The Emperor and I 

7:00 pm, February 23, 2007

frankly, i have seen the movie. i though i read a lot too. but after reading this post, i find it bizarre that i did not understand a single line at first reading. the writer seems to someone who usually knows who she is writing about so i will read again.

posted by Blogger Nandhu 

10:36 pm, February 23, 2007

Nandu neenga enna tube lightaa
Satire purichikama enna journalist ponga

posted by Anonymous Anonymous 

3:01 am, February 24, 2007

HAaahahaha. I am choked. :D

Reminds me of my good old days in college, where getting marks out of certain lecturers involved making simple things sound complicated.

If you wrote than yourself... fantastic!

posted by Blogger rvtheace 

7:23 pm, March 08, 2007

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