Ismail Merchant, best known as the producing half of the successful Merchant-Ivory team, once again steps behind the camera as director for this story of life among Indian expatriates in the 1950s. Ganesh (Aasif Mandvi) is a young man who… More Ismail Merchant, best known as the producing half of the successful Merchant-Ivory team, once again steps behind the camera as director for this story of life among Indian expatriates in the 1950s. Ganesh (Aasif Mandvi) is a young man who was born to a community of Indian exiles living in Trinidad. Always bright, Ganesh hopes to make a career for himself as a writer, but he lacks the money to pursue writing full-time, and his ideas about education clash with those of his employers after he gets a job as a teacher, leaving him with few prospects. Returning to Trinidad after the death of his father, Ganesh is pressured into marrying a local woman named Leela (Ayesha Dharker), whose father, Ramlogan (Om Puri), is a successful merchant. Ganesh and Leela move to a modest home in the hills, where he begins work on a book, but Leela chafes at the Spartan lifestyle dictated by Ganesh's finances, and for a time leaves their home to stay with her parents. In time, Ganesh completes his first book -- a book for lay people on the Hindu faith -- but sales are sluggish until Ganesh and Leela come up with a plan to boost interest in Ganesh's work. Ganesh is promoted as a "Mystic Masseur" with special powers to heal the infirm; Ganesh's routine quickly makes his work very popular with spiritual seekers, and his book becomes a top-seller. However, Ganesh becomes disillusioned with his newfound fame and power, especially after he attempts to take advantage of his celebrity by entering the political arena. The Mystic Masseur was based on a novel by V.S. Naipaul, who won an Nobel prize in the year of this film's release.
Consensus: Though pretty to look at, The Mystic Masseur is too slow-paced and lacks narrative tension.