The beginning of the film is set in 1951 in a small village of Idar in Sabarkantha district, northern Gujarat, where a young man named Gurukant "Guru" Desai (Abhishek Bachchan) dreams of making it big some day. His father (Rajendra Gupta), the headmaster of the village school, tells him not to dream and that dreams never come true. Gurukant decides to go to Turkey and enter the spice trade; later, he is promoted but refuses the job, as he wants to work for himself. Back in his village, he marries Sujata (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), mainly because of the dowry she brings him. Along with Sujata and her brother Jignesh (Arya Babbar), Guru migrates to Bombay and starts trading in cloth. Gradually, he expands his business and sets up manufacturing units of his own, under the name "Shakti Corporation".
Manik "Nanaji" Dasgupta (Mithun Chakraborty), who publishes a newspaper Swatantra, treats Guru as his son. Guru likewise looks upon him as a father figure who gives him support during his early days of struggle in Bombay. He also develops a strong friendship with Meenu (Vidya Balan), granddaughter of Dasgupta. Meenu develops multiple sclerosis as she grows up, and begins using a wheelchair.
As Gurukant Desai's business grows into one of the largest in India, he ruthlessly pursues success. He smuggles machine parts for his polyester mills, illegally creates goods, and manipulates stocks to make a higher profit. But when Manik Dasgupta learns that Guru's means of success are not always honest, he, along with a reporter of his newspaper, Shyam Saxena (Madhavan), decide to expose Guru's increasingly corrupt ways.
The stress of his battle with the newspaper causes Guru to have a stroke, and he is paralysed on his right side. Meanwhile, Meenu (Vidya Balan), who is now married to Shyam, is slowly weakening from her illness, and eventually dies. In the end, Guru is brought before a private government inquiry on 16 October 1980 to defend himself against the charges pressed against him, but delivers a speech in front of the press the next day that forces the government to clear him of 27 of the 29 charges against him. He is charged with a fine of ₹6.3 million (equivalent to ₹100 million or US$1.6 million in 2016) and ₹96,000 (equivalent to ₹1.6 million or US$24,000 in 2016) for the respective 2 charges, which are proved and is allowed to return to his company.
Guru was written and directed by Mani Ratnam, while Vijay Krishna Acharya wrote the Hindi dialogues. Filming took place in Mumbai, Turkey, Badami and Melkote (both in Karnataka), as well as in Chennai, Pollachi, Madurai, Chettinad region Tamil Nadu, and Athirappilly in Kerala. Much of the film was shot on the Express Estates, the former home of The New Indian Express and Dinamani. During one musical number, Aishwarya Rai fell from a bicycle and received bruises on her hands and feet. Filming had to be suspended for a few hours while she received first aid and the number was cut from the film and eventually replaced with "Barso Re". The music is composed by A. R. Rahman, with lyrics by Gulzar. Cinematography for the film is handled by Rajiv Menon. Several scenes were deleted from the final theatrical version, including a scene in which Sujata first gives birth to a stillborn child and a scene in which Guru becomes angry with his wife for visiting Manik Dasgupta.
Guru has others involved in the production as a film that is reflective of a man's desire for ambition and success, and how times have changed from the period immediately after the country's independence to the present. Some reports have speculated that this film is a biographical film of, one of India's biggest industrial tycoons, Dhirubhai Ambani. Like Guru, Ambani also had roots in Gujarat as the son of a schoolteacher, went abroad to work for the gas company Shell, and returned to India to import polyester. Ratnam has described Guru as inspired by stories both past and present.Abhishek Bachchan as Gurukant "Guru" Desai (Gurunath Dhesikhan)Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Sujata DesaiR. Madhavan as Shyam Saxena(Suresh Mukunthan)Vidya Balan as Meenakshi 'Meenu' SaxenaMithun Chakraborty as Manik DasguptaArya Babbar as JigneshRajendra Gupta as Guru's fatherSarita Joshi as Guru's motherArjan Bajwa as Arzan ContracterMallika Sherawat as dancer (Special Appearance in song "Mayya Mayya")Roshan Seth as Justice Thapar (as a Head of Government Enquirer Committee)Prathap K. Pothan as K R Menon I.A.S.Sachin Khedekar as Sujata's fatherNeena Kulkarni as Sujata's motherManoj Joshi as Ghanshyam BhaiDhritiman Chatterjee as Contractor SahaabT. M. Karthik
Guru opened well upon release, gaining momentum over Time. In the United States, Guru, opening on a limited release, registered very good collections in its opening weekend, fetching ₹3 crore (US$470,000) during this period, with a very high screen average. By its seventh week, the film had netted ₹41.65 crore (US$6.5 million) in India, collecting ₹13 crore (US$2.0 million) in the US and the UK. As of 23 February 2007 Guru, released 12 January has grossed more than ₹80 crore (US$12 million) across the world and was declared as "Hit". In the United States, it was a blockbuster.
Guru has received extremely positive reviews from critics. Abhishek Bachchan received almost unanimous praise for his performance. The film has a rating of 90 percent at the review website Rotten Tomatoes. The New York Times said of the film "You might think it would be difficult to fashion an entertaining account of the life of a polyester manufacturer, even a fictitious one. But director Mani Ratnam has done so with "Guru,” an epic paean to can-do spirit and Mumbai capitalism." The New York Post gave it three out of four stars, and the Los Angeles Weekly called it the best Hindi film since Lagaan. Richard Corliss of Time compared the film to Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life and said that one of the main highlights of the film was its climax. This Guru is more like a fine polyester. He further noted, "Ash's film eminence remains a mystery. No question she's pretty, but she's more an actress-model than a model actress. In Guru she's mainly ornamentation". The Hindustan Times reviewer gave it a three and half stars and noted " Ratnam and Bachchan Jr have given you a film that’s as close to life as say, business is to politics. For the discerning viewer, satisfaction is guaranteed.. and some more. Aishwarya Rai is marvellous, handling complex scenes with grace and empathy. Above all, the enterprise belongs to Abhishek Bachchan. He is astonishingly nuanced and unwaveringly forceful in his career-best performance after Yuva. " Critic Taran Adarsh from Bollywood Hungama gave a four star rating and claimed in his review that "Guru ranks as one of Mani Ratnam's finest efforts and one of the best to come out of Hindi cinema," and praised actors performances writing "Reserve all the awards for Abhishek. No two opinions on that! His performance in GURU is world class and without doubt. From a sharp teenager in Turkey to the biggest entrepreneur of the country, Abhishek handles the various shades this character demands with adroitness."
Raja Sen from Rediff gave a three stars said that "Guru is fuelled by a slew of strong performances. Abhishek Bachchan owns the movie, forcing audiences to sit up straight as it begins and making us laugh and applaud as he carries on. He's impressive in every frame, as he ebulliently takes over an alien room by hopping onto a chair, or when he's trying to be ever so slightly slimy, polishing his spectacles and showing off his smarminess". Daily News and Analysis reviewer gave a three star rating and cited " Guru is a film that enthralls you for most of its running time as it traces the life of the uncannily forward seeing bumpkin from Gujarat who turns every disadvantage into an advantage. With Guru, Abhishek Bachchan has finally learnt the nuances of the grammar of cinema, in what will very likely be his defining film". Sify gave its verdict as "Very Good" and stated "Mani Ratnam’s Guru is undoubtedly a gutsy and outstanding film. Outstanding performance is extracted from everyone in the cast." The Hindu cited that "'Guru' is vintage Mani Ratnam. It encapsulates his characteristic canniness about human nature, specifically relationships. This is considered Abhishek Bachchan's role of a lifetime." Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN gave four stars explaining "The beauty of Mani Ratnam's cinema is truly in its unpredictability. Few filmmakers can translate their personal vision onto screen the way Mani Ratnam can. So that's two thumbs up for Guru – it's a must-watch for all. Of the film's cast, Mithun Chakraborty playing the ruthless newspaper baron, deserves mention for the dignity which he brings to the part, one that's clearly inspired by Indian Express founder Ramnath Goenka. The actor in this film who truly blew my mind, is Aishwarya Rai. There is a silent grace, quiet nobility to her performance,which I have to admit I've never seen before. Of course the film belongs to Abhishek Bachchan, the protagonist, Guru himself. And in all honesty, Abhishek rises to the challenge like never before. " The Sunday Times stated "It is certainly one of the best Bollywood movies you will see. Performances attract admiration: Bachchan does a De Niro, piling on the dosas to show the ageing and overweight Guru and he is, surprisingly, impressive. Rai sheds her usual doe-eyed expressions and is endearing as the supportive but fiery wife, who looks and dances like an angel. Chakraborty and Tamil superstar Madhavan shine equally brightly in underwritten supporting roles". BBC reviewer Jaspreet Pandohar gave it a three star rating and noted "Ratnam's absorbing screenplay ensures that Guru rises above the usual rags to riches story, by weaving in meaty subplots involving the protagonist's complex relationships with his loyal wife (Aishwarya Rai), friends and foes".Filmfare AwardsBest Art Direction – Samir ChandaBest Background Score – A. R. RahmanBest Music – A. R. RahmanBest Choreography – Saroj Khan for "Barso Re"Best Playback Singer (Female) – Shreya Ghoshal for "Barso Re"Best Film – Mani RatnamBest Director – Mani RatnamBest Actor – Abhishek BachchanBest Actress – Aishwarya RaiBest Supporting Actor – Mithun ChakrabortyBest Lyrics – Gulzar for "Tere Bina"Best Playback Singer (Male) – A. R. RahmanShantaram AwardsBest Director – Mani RatnamBest Music Director – A. R. RahmanBest Cinematographer – Rajeev Menon
The highly acclaimed and extremely successful soundtrack for this film is composed by A. R. Rahman. All songs were colossal hits and the whole album, despite stiff competition from other albums, remained on top for several months and was chosen as the best album for the year 2006.
For his highly acclaimed and successful work in this film, A. R. Rahman received both "Best Music" and "Best Background Score" awards in "Filmfare awards" as well as "IIFA awards". According to the Indian trade website Box Office India, with around 11,50,000 units sold, this film's soundtrack album was the year's twelfth highest-selling.