Saturday, January 13, 2007

Guru: A film & economics review

(Disclaimer: I'm not here to comment on how the songs were, how the this & that pinky minor details were... search some other blog for that. I'm not gonna talk about Mani Rathnam or AR Rahman or even Rajiv Menon. I felt most other reviews were pathetic in that they totally missed the whole point. I'm here for the story and story alone, what it means.)

Oh boy! what a week of movies... This whole week I had been spending watching some of the best movies (apart from doing my day job) included one of the best movies of all time - "Life is beautiful" (that got me to spend most of the tissues in my house) and the first day of this Hindi movie - "Guru". I loved it so much that I didnt even talk coming out of the theatre with my dozen frens and drove the car without switching on the music. I wanted the film to settle in me and blogging as soon as possible. This is my review based on my experiences with both investing & films and ya... ATLAS SHRUGGED. Kindly bear if dont talk about AR Rahman at all (the music director) as I'm someone who believe that most films dont need songs and in this film most of the songs were out of place (but you know I loved the Mallika Sherawat's song ;)).

The movie is about the story of one of the world's greatest entrepreneurs Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of the conglomerate Reliance. To me he is much more than even Henry Ford & Andrew Carnegie (the former pillars of American economic ascendence) as he battled India's highly idiotic anti-business atmosphere and built a vast empire (from texitles to petroleum, telecom, and now retail malls & real estate) starting from nothing. He should be a hero for any Indian dreaming to do something big by the power of economics and today we are seeing the brilliant empire slowly on the footsteps of becoming a GE of the world. So, how did a guy with no political or business links to start out with, built such a magestic empire is a great legend. I once read about it again and again (12 years ago during the Indian boom) and its fascinating. And this movie brilliantly captures that (Hindi films are getting better and better in every genre) and top the director ices with the film depiction of Hank Rearden's extraordinary court scene in "Atlas Shrugged". (For those who didnt read the novel, I cant pity you for the lack of understanding of the climax). One moron writes >> he attempts to justify the man’s deeds in a weak climax which puts forward the dubious premise that as long as you bring happiness to your shareholders here
What the heck he knows about climaxes or business?

The story revolves around Gurubhai (does it sounds like Dhirubhai) & his brilliant political & business maneuvres (basically he got around India' archaic rules of milking out well-run companies and increased production enormously and fought a system by breaking all its bad rules and involved one of the biggest sharebases in the country, thereby benifitting most middle class in the country) and his pitched battles with Nanaji (Ramnath Goenka of Indian express).

Simple story: Guru fails in his exams and runs to Turkey to work in a petrochemical firm and learns in and out of business and commodities trading. He then beleives that he can do much better by starting business in India and returns back. Here, he then partners with his close friend and marries his sister (played by Aishwarya Rai) partly for the dowry with which he can open a company. He then goes to Mumbai and wants to trade in the rudimentary commodities exchange there. However, he finds redtapism there, with the President of the exchange a wealthy Mr.Contractor (Nusli Wadia of Bombay Dyeing) doesn't allow new members and extends full control over it, thereby blocking development. Guru accidentally Nanaji, a news baron, and Nanaji agrees to publish his story of how business is blocked by vested interests in the exchange. Contractor gets pissed off and using his political power closes the exchange itself in anger. But, Guru does an intelligent convincing and puts the IAS officer incharge to a great embarassment and forced to reopen.

Guru becomes a great trader, and later opens a big factory and in a path that revolutionized Indian industry, he went for an equity based approach with an IPO (that time called new issues) instead of taking the conventional debt based aproach. An ingenious decision that brough millions of commoners into shareholder governance thereby ensuring its success with politicians. He dreams of beating Burma Shell (Bombay Dyeing) with his company and does extrordinary maneuvres - creating bogus exports (Indian law then allowed teh companies to import only if they export something, so he created ghost entities abroad that bought his empty boxes) and then channeled the revenue to import a lot of capital goods (machinery). And he understaded the imports to avoid taxes and made use of teh capital gains laws to avoid most of the taxes.

An entreprising reporter in Swathanthra (Indian Express) exposes all the violations and a government commission gets into full swing. He is accused by everybody and the great company was on the verge of closing down with Ambani facing the prospect of jail (in 1980s). In the state of shock he gets a paralytic attack. In the climax court scene, he delivers a brilliant speech (exactly like Hank's speech in Atla Shrugged), where he questions the verasity of those archaic laws and doesnt hide the fact that he broke the laws. He demands whether making a prosperous business that led to India's growth and alleviation of poverty as a crime & whether making all those middleclass shareholders prosperous is a crime. A host of brilliant questions in the licence raj regime of pre-economic indepence India (got independence in 1991). The govt was dumbstruck and it had millions of common shreholders whose rights the common cannot affect. So, the government had to go back, and eventually India started its reforms (not in the movie).

The movie ends with how Dhirubhai dreamed of India to become a first world country and why chasing dreams is not bad. If it means breaking stupid laws so be it (Mahatmaji called it Civil Disobedience movement). I perfectly agree with Dhirubhai, I liked the powers of a man's dream and seeing the status of Reliance today as teh backbone of Indian economy, I cant just wonder what wud have happened to India if those stupid politicians got carried away and killed Reliance.

It was a great movie - a great lesson. Rand's lovers wud love the concept (though the songs showed typical Bollywood Masala strains) and Indian businessmen should learn a lesson or two from him.


Mohan said...

I like the way you refer to Gurubhai as Dhirubhai through the end

Amar said...

Good one. I seriously think there is one catch though. The audience cant understand the movie if they are not aquainted with 'license raj'. the film shud have been promoted as one that reflects the india of 80s and 90s where red-tape and licenses dictated productivity. But Mani sold it as one abt a man's our aam janta is unprepared when they go to the movie. cant exactly blame them..mani shud have incorporated some shots abt lincense raj, if he was indeed focussing on that or otherwise he shud have sticked to his 'dream' concept and concentrated on that...he went missing in the middle...and so not all can appreciate the content.

Raghavendra said...

I am not here to comment on any one particular blog or the subject of the blog but on your presentation skills. As I read thru your blogs it occured to me that you are one of very few people who can express their inner thaughts to others very clearly .. Be it right or wrong.. the balance of the argument is totally personal but the expression is very propagating. The article has a very logical sequence of expressions maintaining the right level of emotion.
Keep it up!

allrounder said...

Oh God,
You have already found the connection? I saw the movie first and I wanted to be the first one to write a blog on this but could not make it in time. Then I think you did not yet posted this, just today I got time and started writing and gosh you overtook me. Any way, its good to know that someone else find that connection. I still did not read yours, but I will once, I finished mine, I want to express my 'raw' ideas first.

If you find time see mine at

allrounder said...


your blog is better. Ideas are more lucid and the reason I did not appreciate the movie is I want Guru to say " Let the public be damned". But his argument is reversed. I desperately wanted to Atlas Shrugged on the screen. Anyway its a good start.


allrounder said...

see this post, I just wanted to communicate my idea