Cast: Venkatesh, Ritika Singh, Mumtaz, Nasser, Thanikella, Raghu Babu, Zakir Hussain and others
Director: Sudha Kongara
Actor Venkatesh, who is known for acting in remakes, and doing so successfully, is acting in yet another one, the sports drama Guru. It is a remake of Saala Khadoos (in Hindi) and Irudhi Suttru (in Tamil). Ritika Singh and Mumtaz, who acted in the earlier films, are the female leads in this one too. Sudha Kongara, who directed the Tamil and Hindi versions, is the director for the Telugu remake. Aditya (Venkatesh) coaches women boxers and is a straightforward person who invariably gets into trouble. He is frustrated by the politics in sports and doesn’t care for the head coach, Dev Katri (Zakir Hussain), whose wife has left him and who has become an alcoholic. To Aditya, the head coach transferred him to Vizag, where Aditya can’t find anyone worth coaching. Then one day he sees Rameshwari aka Ramudu (Ritika Singh), a vegetable vendor, in a street fight and spots her talent immediately. He selects her as his boxing pupil. Ramudu’s sister Lakshmi (Mumtaz) is also learning to box because she wants to be selected for a police job in the sports quota.
Ramudu is not interested in boxing, but she accepts Aditya’s offer after he promises to pay her for coming daily to train. His goal is to make her a champion, but she is not disciplined enough. Aditya also has to contend with the problems created by the head coach, Devi Katri. The film narrates how Aditya creates a champion from such unpromising material. There are no major changes in the Telugu version, except that the girl from the slums adores actor Dhanush in the Tamil version and Venkatesh in the Telugu version. Though the story centres on how a girl from the slums becomes a champion, it also touches on sports politics, how the sports authorities behave with women boxers, the coach’s passion, sibling rivalry and other issues. Director Sudha Kongara keeps to the narrative and doesn’t hype any of the characters, not even Venkatesh. She thus manages to extract good performances from everyone.
Venkatesh gives his best performance to date, and is deeply engaged with his character. His role is completely suited to his age, so he looks natural and he has changed his dialogue style and mannerisms to suit this film. It is good that slowly Tollywood actors are changing their mindset and are choosing different subjects. Ritika Singh has performed equally well and is perfect for the role of Ramalakshmi. She is good in the boxing scenes and looks completely natural. Mumtaz has done a decent job and the scenes featuring the siblings have come out very well. Nasser and Thanikella in supporting roles have done well and Zakir, who plays the head coach, has also done well.
However, the dubbing leaves much to be desired as the accents and body language of Ritika and Mumtaz don’t really match. The scenes with the two girls in the slum show the influence of Tamil rather than Telugu nativity. Otherwise, the film is gripping and emotional. The cinematography is good, with excellent shots of the beautiful Visakhapatnam beach and other locations. The film is shot in real locations which gives it an authentic feel. The songs are good — Venkatesh has sung for the first time and it has come out very well. Guru is a good sports drama and not a regular formula or commercial film. There are some similarities in theme with Dangal, which released recently, but the subject of Guru is completely different, except for the sports politics. This is the first Telugu film with sports as the backdrop and shows Venkatesh in a completely new avatar. Watch it.