Set in 1995, director Jadeesha K Hampi’s Guru Shishyaru is a sports drama that puts the spotlight on kho-kho. It highlights how lack of exposure in the 90s resulted in a drop in participation and enthusiasm toward the game when compared to cricket or basketball. The story is told through Manohara (Sharan) who joins a school in Bettadapura village as the Physical Education (PT) teacher and is assigned to coach the kho-kho team. What follows is a tug of war between the teacher and his students.
Bettadapura is dealing with its own issues because of a swindler named Ranganna (Apurva Kasaravalli), who is pressuring the village residents to give up the land that belonged to his grandparents before the Union government implemented the ‘tiller is the owner of the land’ policy. After the court asks the two parties to come to an agreement, Raganna, who is also a gambler, says he will withdraw the case against the residents if Bettadapura children defeat his players in the yearly kho-kho event.
It is at this stage that Manohara enters the picture. He unwittingly becomes the village’s chosen saviour. He needs to stand up for himself and defend the village. There is also a new romance to cope with. Nishvika Naidu plays Sooji, a dairy worker who is Manohara's love interest. Nishvika’s performance is definitely a step up from her previous work in Amma I Love You, Paddehuli and Vaasa Naan Pakka Commercial.
The story is not limited to Manohara, it is intertwined with the tales of every other character. Every member of the kho-kho team has a unique tale to tell, and so do the other characters as well. That is what gives the movie its credibility. Throughout the movie you can see similarities to Shah Rukh Khan’s Chak De India, including a scene in which Manohara gives a motivational speech to his students about the importance of ‘nine minutes’ in kho-kho.
As a comedian who went on to do leading roles, most of Sharan’s movies as the hero emphasise his talent for humour. Guru Shishyaru not only has Sharan’s trademark humour but is also a sports entertainer. As Manohara, the actor has undergone a drastic physical transformation and dons a moustache for a 90s look.
Apart from veterans like Suresh Heblikar and Dattanna, the movie also features star kids Hruday (Sharan’s son), Ekanth (Nenapirali Prem’s son), Rakshak Sena (late comedian Bullet Prakash’s son), Manikanta Nayak (MLA Raju Gowda’s son), Suriya (Ravi Shankar Gowda’s son) and Harshit (actor Naveen Krishna’s son). It was reported that the child actors underwent training in kho-kho for almost a year and the effort is well worth it as the kho-kho sequences look very realistic.
The first two lines of the motivational song ‘Nade Munde’ (Walk ahead) are taken from Rashtrakavi Kuvempu’s poem. Sung by Kailash Kher, Ajaneesh Loknath’s composition lends it an earthy vibe.
Edited by Vidya Sigamany
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.