Low expectations yield high results and other pearls of spiritual wisdom: THE LOVE GURU Review

“Mariska Hargitay.” Say it aloud, softly and with reverence: “Mariska Hargitay.” Yes, it’s the name of the actress on Law and Order, but from the lips of Mike Myer’s newest creation, Guru Pitka, it’s a mantra, a blessing, and a joke that never stops giving. securedownload.jpeg

I went to see The Love Guru with hackles raised and claws sharpened. I came to bury, not to praise. But 87 IQ-draining minutes of fart jokes, midget jokes, and sight gags (ever wanted to see someone literally have his head up his ass?) later, I came out slightly charmed, humming the Guru Pitka song and wishing my friend “Mariska Hargitay” every time he sneezed. Light-hearted, good-natured, and silly beyond belief, the movie might bore those who can’t easily access an inner 12-year-old, but for everyone else it’s well worth at least 5 demerits on the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti chart.

Mike Myers built a career playing outsized characters, goofiness masking the fact that world inhabited by those characters, the entire point of the parody, revolved around something actually not all that familiar to most Americans. Sprockets? How many Americans knew anything about West German Mimimalism, let alone enough to mock it? Wayne’s World? Brought GenX tropes and Slackers and cable access television to the mainstream in 1992. Austin Powers? It seems obvious now, but British 60s spy films weren’t on anyone’s cultural radar in the mid-90s.

So now that his new creation satirizes Hinduism, spirituality and the Guru-Shishya relationship, what will mainstream Americans make of it? How offensive is Guru Tugginmypudha?



Played by Ben Kingsley, Guru Tugginmypudha (say the name slowly…Yup) heads an ashram in the small fishing village of Harenmahkeester (sigh), India. The guru is permanently cross-eyed, and pours tea by inserting the teapot spout into one nostril and catching the liquid that pours out the other nostril in a teacup. Vedic wisdom, netti pots and tea drinking…all finally in one gross-out conflation.

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He schools the young Pitka (Myers), an American boy found by the gates of the ashram, in the “secrets of spiritual attainment” through games of stink-mop (bathroom humor finds new recourse) and the wearing of a chastity belt.

[If you find any of this outrageously insulting, don't see the movie. But that's about it, really. Of course it's juvenile...but what else could be expected from the man who brought us endless pissing scenes and ribald boob gags and schwinggg??]

Pitka is trained alongside a young Deepak Chopra, who later goes on to become the Deepak Chopra, #1 guru in America. Tired of his #2 slot, Pitka longs to overtake his rival and appear on Oprah, and a call from the Toronto Maple Leafs offers the chance to finally break ahead. Apparently the star player has a bad case of jitters after his wife left him for the L.A.Kings’ goalie, Jacques ‘Le Coq” Grande (Justin Timberlake, choking on a juicy role). All Pitka has to do is reunite the husband and wife, and the jitters will disappear, Oprah will beckon, and he can dethrone Deepak Chopra.

The movie is a hideous mash of Hari Krishna and hockey, but it’s all handled with affection and a light touch of mischief. It also sprints along so fast you don’t have time to get too bored or notice gaping plot holes, which, in this summer of two and a half hour vapidities (I’m looking at you, SaTC), is a small mercy in and of itself.

The spirituality presented (and gently mocked) here is really that of Deepak Chopra, he of the book for every emotion and occasion, the mercenary habit of slapping a trademark on every catchphrase, the strange intersection of spirituality, self-help and commerce. “As it says in my book” Pitka begins, shilling books such as If You’re Happy and You Know It, Think Again directly to the camera, to huge laughs from the audience. Acronyms are used as shorthand for catchphrases that are shorthand for genuine knowledge, all with an ever present TM. Myers nails Chopra’s accent, the distinctly rounded vowels, the slight sibilance that sounds the letter S more like a Z – “It iz very nize, izn’t it?” – so much so that when Chopra appears for a pivotal cameo and they speak to each other, the auditory resemblance is disorienting. Myers is friends with Chopra, so maybe Chopra has a better sense of humor about himself that I’d have credited him with. Pitka’s habit of explaining his own jokes had to come from somewhere.

Again, this is all so friendly and fluffy, Knocked Up looks like Grand Guignol and I found myself cheerfully hiccuping with laughter. There are two pretty awesome nods to Bollywood as well, starring Jessica Alba in a barely there sari, at least half the former cast of Bombay Dreams, high-pitched vocals badly dubbed (intentionally) for Alba, and on-purpose glitchy tape. That sounds awful, but the end result is really affectionate homage. In an entirely different sort of musical hat-tip, “Brimful of Asha’ by CornerShop plays over a rather exciting hockey montage.

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Manu Narayan, the star of the Broadway production of Bombay Dreams, plays Rajneesh, Guru Pitka’s Jeeves-like second in command/manservant. It’s a thankless role, but he gets quite a bit of screen-time so hopefully he’ll catch someone’s eye and land some decent gigs a la Naveen Andrews. Rounding out the great cast, Stephen Colbert plays a drug-addled sportscaster with his usual deadpan wit.

Despite a new character and milieu to mine, The Love Guru treads well-worn Mike Myers comedy terrain, one that is no longer so fresh. Verne Troyer shows up for no other reason than as a punch line for Keebler elves jokes, and Myers can’t quite keep Dr. Evil from creeping into his Pitka character. I’m pretty sure the movie will get panned, and whether an audience acclimating to Apotovian humor will stick around past opening weekend remains to be seen, but low-brow chuckles and cool air-conditioning go well with hot summer days so I wouldn’t bet against The Guru.

Previously on SepiaMutiny: 1, 2.

31 thoughts on “Low expectations yield high results and other pearls of spiritual wisdom: THE LOVE GURU Review

  1. The movie is a hideous mash of Hari Krishna and hockey

    There are two pretty awesome nods to Bollywood as well, starring Jessica Alba in a barely there sari

    sounds bloody Wicked!!

  2. Eh.. Myers has been using that same schtick for almost 20 years now. He’s jumped the laugh track. I’ll save my $10 for “The Dark Knight”.

  3. Damn, Ben Kingsley will act in anything! Dude probably has child support or something!

  4. what will mainstream Americans make of it

    They’ll think it’s the norm. not that they’ll think Mike Myers character is not an exaggeratioon, but all other supporting cast members , and details will be thought of as normal.

  5. Myers nails Chopra’s accent, the distinctly rounded vowels, the slight sibilance that sounds the letter S more like a Z – “It iz very nize, izn’t it?” – so much so that when Chopra appears for a pivotal cameo and they speak to each other, the auditory resemblance is disorienting.

    Think Myers watched The Guru of Sex, which featured Jimi Mistry doing a very unkind portrayal of a Chopra-like character (albeit far more lewd)? Probably wasn’t anywhere near mimcry but the moral question was certainly beaten to death.

  6. In the end, this is all pandering to white American expectations. The only way to do it right, is the Chapelle/Chris Rock method: Point out the racism/”orientalism” in clever, humorous ways, so white people will laugh while being reminded of their own innate prejudices.

    ie. the Black Bush, Tron – Law & Order, or Clayton Bigsby skit.

  7. I’m not concerned about the movie as a Hindu. I can sympathize with those among us who’ve protested and called for some sort of a disclaimer, but I think it’s unnecessary. My only concern is how the hick who goes and watches this movie is going to react when he faces someone like my little bro at school. I faced my fair share of cow and idolatry jokes growing up in Midwestern schools infested with redneck, Christian bigots. I just hope that this movie, however silly it is, doesn’t make it worse for desi Hindu kids growing up today.

  8. My only concern is how the hick who goes and watches this movie is going to react when he faces someone like my little bro at school.

    Exactly. it’s not the movie in and of itself thats a problem. It’s that it’s in a society where the “hick” has no other mainstream input point to provide a counterbalance – to show that it’s a satire.

    I faced my fair share of cow and idolatry jokes growing up in Midwestern schools infested with redneck, Christian bigots.

    how dare you say that the midwest has disproportionately more people who participate in Christian superiority? I know you have facts and evidence on your side, but lets forget all that for a moment.

    I just hope that this movie, however silly it is, doesn’t make it worse for desi Hindu kids growing up today.

    It’s the “ripping out your heart” scene all over again.

  9. how dare you say that the midwest has disproportionately more people

    I said I attended a school in the Midwest. I don’t understand why you would take that to be a generalization of all schools in the Midwest. This was the type of school where brown kids, and there weren’t many, would be hounded by comments about driving taxis, worshipping cows, and blowing up buildings, regardless of their religion. I can only speak for my experience. There was no attempt to make a generalization.

  10. And I hoped you were just kidding around, but I was somewhat put off by the “ripping out your heart” comment. I didn’t want to come across like I was lamenting about the status quo; I’m just concerned that my brother will face more of the silly stuff that goes on in high schools.

  11. And I hoped you were just kidding around, but I was somewhat put off by the “ripping out your heart” comment. I didn’t want to come across like I was lamenting about the status quo; I’m just concerned that my brother will face more of the silly stuff that goes on in high schools.

    I was kidding around. I’ve made similar statements in the past but was drawn and quartered for “generalizing” too much, and “hating white people” Did you get the ‘ripping out your heart’ reference? I was in agreement with you that while people in our generation got asked if we ripped our hearts out and ate chilled monkey brains, so too will people like your brother be asked reg’ding certain things from this movie.

  12. It’s the “ripping out your heart” scene all over again.

    I blame that movie and scene for setting back my game with the ladies in junior high :) . By the way everyone who is non desi and grew up in that time idolizes that movie.

  13. HMF and Sunil:

    OMGawd! I have to say the new Indiana Jones brought about an onslaught of PTSD-like symptoms for me: vivid flashes of an awkward 5th grader me, being interrogated almost daily. No, I do not eat monkey brains. And no, ppl do not pull out beating hearts in India. Spielberg I curse you! (Insert visual of me holding a fist and sporting an angry expression)

  14. didn’t go for love guru since i couldn’t resist the gorgeous Anne Hathaway and movie was really funny. Btw there was a desi connection – Dalip Singh donned the role of villain working for russian mafia and in fact in one scene ( which was a spoof/parody of Kal Penn terrorist on the plane scene in ) he donned some kind of turban representing sikh perhaps and also there were dialogs like ” go eat your kababs” ..which i thought had desi connotations to his role.

  15. imdb has this item on some idiot Hindu group spokesman(who the hell made him spokesman for us?) was ranting about the movie. Why the hell should anyone care what this guy says? Rajan Zed can go f*** himself.

    Is this movie as embarassing as The Guru? I highly doubt it. That movie was unwatchable. And seriously, some Bollywood movies do plenty to make Indians the butt of jokes.

    Yes, I am aware that there are oversensitive folk in every religion. So what. It doesnt make what these Hindu leaders say tolerable. Leaders no one in my family even remotely has a clue about.

  16. In all the comments about The Love Guru, one thing seems to be missing. Most of Hollywood’s films that have some Indian connection (The Love Guru, The Guru, Marigold) bomb big time at the box office. The only one that was a modest hit, Bend it Like Beckham, owes more to the popularity of soccer with young girls than an interest in Punjabi Sikh culture.

    Why is this so? One – not many Indians or Indian-Americans are involved in the making of these clunkers. So, it’s really an American take on Indian culture. One of the reasons The Namesake managed to do well is that it seemed to non-Indian audiences to be the real deal, and not some Hollywood gloss.

    There is another possibility. Since many Indian-Americans have done well for themselves in media and publishing, they interact with non-Indians in these industries, who take a genuine interest in Indian culture. But somewhere along the line, what starts out as a good idea goes through the Hollywood idea-crushing machine, and what you get is junk like The Love Guru.

  17. Most of Hollywood’s films that have some Indian connection (The Love Guru, The Guru, Marigold) bomb big time at the box office. The only one that was a modest hit, Bend it Like Beckham, owes more to the popularity of soccer with young girls than an interest in Punjabi Sikh culture.

    Bend it Like Beckham was not a Hollywood film, nor was it only a modest hit:

    It was also a steamroller sensation at the British box office, becoming not only the first film by a nonwhite Briton to reach No. 1 over there, but also ending up as that country’s top-grossing British-financed and -distributed film ever.

    [link]

    As for the rest of your argument, I believe the real answer is actually much simpler.

  18. Here’s an official statement from ISKCON regarding THE LOVE GURU. It may have been prompted by their Indian congregation.

    http://www.chakra.org/discussions/BMJun22_08.html

    On June 20, 2008, Paramount Pictures releases The Love Guru nationwide. The film tells the story of Guru Pitka (Mike Myers), a westerner raised at an Indian ashram, who grows up to be a high-profile and eccentric holy man come west. While the level of humor contained in the film is crass, the comedy has drawn significant attention even before its official opening – both pro and con – and from Hindu-Americans concerned that it violates appropriate boundaries in dealing with a religious subject. On behalf of the North American chapters of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a Vaishnava, or devotional Hindu organization with an ethnically diverse membership, we understand that many Hindus are concerned that the film may mock their faith. At the same time, having seen the film in its entirety, we find it to be a typical satire that does not intend to hurt religious sentiments. While we respect the rights of others within the community to draw their own conclusions, we disagree with the calls to protest or boycott the film. We encourage the Hindu-American community to view the film in its context as a comedy, and to draw on the tolerance and broadmindedness that are hallmarks of our faith. The Love Guru is a satire, a genre that typically replaces reality with contradictions and exaggerations. If however, some mistake satire for truth, then rather than be angered, we could take the opportunity to clarify misrepresentations and educate others about our authentic traditions. If approached in a constructive and proactive way, the film may even lead to increased tolerance, dialogue, and understanding between Hindus and non-Hindus. We believe that pressuring filmmakers to censor , re-rate, or otherwise limit their artistic freedom is generally antithetical to the spirit of pluralism and tolerance within the Vedic, or Hindu culture. We recognize that, in certain cases, media depictions may so egregiously distort or maliciously denigrate our faith that boycotts, petitions, and other acts of protest are warranted. The Love Guru, however, is not such a case. Members of most faith traditions are sensitive about aspects of their tradition being used as sources of humor. However, The Love Guru reminds us that it is wise for people of faith to also maintain a sense of humor-and to take the time to laugh (even at ourselves) once in a while. Anuttama dasa ISKCON Minister of Communications
  19. I see this movie tanked pretty bad,That “Get smart” is movie is number one and thats a damn shame Hulk should have gotten number one again.

  20. Hey guys, can you help to define what is “Tugginmypudha”? I’m not so good with English. Please.

  21. I totally don’t understand what is meant by: “Guru Tugginmypudha” or “Harenmahkeester”

  22. 27 · boston_mahesh said

    I totally don’t understand what is meant by: “Guru Tugginmypudha” or “Harenmahkeester”

    Tugging my pudha. Hair in my keester. pudha = penis. keester = anus.