The buoyant and breezy The Guru centers on Ramu Gupta (Jimi Mistry), who lives in Bombay, teaching aerobic dance to out-of-shape women, but dreams of becoming a star. Following his heart, he moves to New York and very quickly finds that things will be a little tougher than expected: The cousin he thought was well-to-do lied to impress his family, and rather than a penthouse, Ramu must live in a shared walkup.
Working as a waiter in an Indian restaurant, Ramu gets what he believes to be his big break, a leading role in a movie, only to find that it is a porno film, directed by the ultra-sleazy Dwain (Michael McKean, in a small but amusing role). The female star of the film is the beautiful Sharonna (Heather Graham), who is leading a double life. She loves sex, and believes that her genitalia is the door to her soul, but she also is engaged to a devoutly religious man who does not know how she earns her living. Due to the presence of the crew on the set, Ramu is unable to perform as expected, and returns to his waiting ways.
One night, while working at a private dinner, Ramu fills in for a drunken swami, who has been hired to help Lexi (Marisa Tomei) fill the ongoing void in her life. Spontaneously quoting Sharonna's views on the spiritual benefits of sex, Ramu is a hit, and soon finds himself regularly filling Lexi's void.
Anxious to continue to capitalize on his luck and burgeoning fame, Ramu arranges to take lessons from Sharonna, and uses these insights, unbeknownst to her, to become famous as The Guru of Sex. As the lessons continue, he finds himself falling in love with Sharonna, and must figure out a way to win her by disentangling himself from the various circumstances his pretense has created.
All of this makes for some very entertaining if lightweight goings-on, with director Daisy von Scherler Mayer juggling the pieces of Tracey Jackson's clever script in a sure-handed way. At its best, The Guru possesses a Preston Sturges-like quality-no small praise from this critic-but the film does not sustain the pacing, urbane tone or social observations hidden just beneath the laughter.
Mistry, best known for the Brit series 'East Enders,' displays a deft comedic touch as the not-so-innocent Ramu, whose musical numbers poke some gentle fun at the films of Bollywood. Graham is a more brainy, down-to-earth version of her porn-star character in Boogie Nights, and Tomei is suitably ditzy as the heiress in search of life's meaning. The Guru won't help viewers find religion, but it will guide them to a pleasant moviegoing experience. Om.