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Guru Shishyaru review: Sharan and the child actors make this classic underdog tale a heart-warming watch

The film, directed by Jadeshaa K Hampi, also stars Suresh Heblikar and Nishvika Naidu in pivotal roles. 

4/5rating
Guru Shishyaru review: Sharan and the child actors make this classic underdog tale a heart-warming watch
Sharan and the young actors of the sports drama
  • Prathibha Joy

Last Updated: 03.31 PM, Sep 23, 2022

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Story: Former national-level kho kho player Manohar's (Sharan) chance to get a job worth his while at a good school, hinges on him showing that he’s got relevant experience. Manohar’s coach Dattanna (Dattanna), who saw his sports capabilities at a young age and pushed him to play kho kho, is dismayed at the lack of interest in the sport among the general public and opportunities for former players. Determined to give Manohar a fighting chance, he gets him a posting as PT master at a remote school. What awaits Manohar, though, is more than just making the students do a few exercise drills. The future of an entire village depends on him. Can he live up to this challenge?

Review: It’s a good feeling when you watch a film that’s immensely entertaining, while also attempting to drill home a message without ever being preachy. And when the others in the near house-full auditorium echo your thoughts and whistle, clap and hoot during some of the film’s ‘action blocks’, you know this is a winner. Only hours ago, I had spoken to actor Sharan about possibly being stuck in a web of his own making by focusing on dramas in the comedy genre. He’d assured me that I would be pleasantly surprised with the progress he is making as far as stepping out-of-the-box goes, while remaining true to his core strength, comedy, and entertaining audiences.

A still from the film
A still from the film

With Guru Shishyaru, the team seems to have hit bulls-eye, getting the emotions, drama, romance and action just right – it’s all perfectly balanced. The trailer pretty much explains what to expect of the film. Sharan’s Manohar is a man who has lost hope that his once feted skills as an athlete will be of any use to him. A game of the land, Kho kho is no longer a lucrative sport, unlike imports like cricket or basketball. Hell, it can’t even get him a PT teacher’s job. So, when he eventually lands in Bettadpura, with the sole aim of hanging around at the local school for a year and getting an experience certificate that will land him a better gig, he does it without truly putting his heart into it. Even when he is eventually entrusted with the responsibility of the local kho kho team, which mostly comprises his students, he’d rather buy trophies and appear to return victorious than actually putting the team through the rigours of tournaments. What he chooses to do when it then comes down to them having to save the village is what the film’s about.

It's a pretty straight-forward classic tale of an underdog, so you know where the makers will go with it eventually. Where Guru Shishyaru wins is in how the maker choose to present this tale. There are fun moments, a teensy-weensy bit of romance, and plenty of sporting action blocks. What I liked most about the kho kho scenes was that they were exhilarating and informative to watch - the immense physical stamina and agility required to play a game that is over in four blocks of nine minutes each. And to think that the ones in the spotlight of these matches are bunch of kids. Sharan is joined by a group of youngsters including his own son Hruday, as well as the kids of actors Nenapirali Prem, late Bullet Prakash, Naveen Krishna and Ravishankar Gowda, and a few others picked at auditions. Each one of these youngsters, who were trained extensively in the game, put up really spirited performances in the film, so, in that sense, Guru Shishyaru belongs as much to them as it does to leading man Sharan.

The only misstep, I thought, was in the choice of villain. Apurva Kasaravalli just wasn’t menacing enough. Actor-filmmaker Tharun Sudhir, who is the creative director of the project and has co-produced it as well, would have been a good fit, perhaps. Nishvika Naidu tries her best to play a langa-dhavani clad village belle. While her performance cannot be faulted, I am not entirely sold on the idea of her look in the film, including her darkened skin tone and immaculately manicured finger nails (mind you, this is set in a village in 1995 that does not have a lot of amenities). All of these, of course, are minor peeves that can easily be overlooked.

Nishvika Naidu in a still from the film
Nishvika Naidu in a still from the film

Verdict: When you have a theatre full of young college boys discussing wanting to play kho kho as they walk out, rest assured, the film team’s objectives have been met – to present an entertaining tale that is meant to create awareness about a fast-fading sport. Sharan, Tharun and director Jadeshaa have presented a clean wholesome entertainer that should be a sure-shot winner. But that, dear audiences, is entirely up to you. I reckon that this is the perfect film for a family outing to the movies and today, it's only Rs 75 per ticket. 

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