Society & Culture
'Spirit of India'
the-south-asian.com March 2001
- a film by
Piyush Dinker Pandya
'American Desi' is writer-director Piyush Dinker Pandya's debut film - a romantic comedy - easy on the nerves, eyes and ears - on a subject close to his heart - the cultural tug-of-war in growing up as a second-generation Indian-American. Pandya, a Rutgers alumnus, understands the issues well - he grew up as a second-generation Indian-American in Long Island. In a span of 100 minutes the lively interaction between Pandya's characters - all college freshmen - is enough to convey the message that life has a lighter side too and can be lived without complications and paranoia.
The story revolves around:
- Krishna Reddy - a new Jersey reared teenager, not hot on Indian culture, eager to taste the freedom of college life - wants to be known as Kris - rolls his eyes on anything Indian - unwittingly falls for Nina, not realising she is an Indian-American
- his three room-mates - all of Indian origin - Jagjit Singh (a Sikh - weighed down by his father's desire to see him qualify as an Engineer and enter the Construction Industry - though he'd rather be doing Fine Arts), Salim (a devout Muslim who thinks all Indian-American girls are in the fast lane and cannot make good home-makers ), and Ajay or AP (the endearing believer in Afro-American brotherhood of Malcolm X)
- Nina, another Engineering 101, looks American and thinks Indian
- Farah, also Engineering 101, a normal, gregarious tank-top wearing kid who also takes religion seriously and goes to the mosque
- Eric, an all-American kid, a childhood friend of Kris, who understands and exploits the nuances of Indian culture - also in the same campus but different residential hall
Krishna Reddy or Kris is the ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) - the rest have found their existential levels. The film has a racy and at times hilarious script , the parent-child interaction is so true-to-life, the soundtrack is potentially addictive, the acting is great, and the film is refreshingly clean and short.
There are no preachers in the film - only fun - yet, the subtle messages come through lucidly -
- what you wear has nothing to do with the way you think
- taking light-hearted and innocent digs at each other's religion is not being disrespectful to it
- it is possible to follow different faiths and yet live together
- it doesn't help to be judgmental about people
- it is normal for South Asian parents to feel they know what is best for their children - in career as well as in marriage - it is their love and concern
The film has no intellectual pretensions - it is about the issues and cultural/moral anxieties we face in our everyday life. It is a fun film with important messages - and eminently watchable.
Written and directed by Piyush Dinker Pandya
WITH: Deep Katdare (Krishna Reddy), Purva Bedi (Nina Shah), Ronobir Lahiri (Jagjit Singh), Rizwan Manji (Salim Ali Khan), Kal Penn (Ajay Pandya), Sunita Param (Farah), Eric Axen (Eric Berger) and Anil Kumar (Rakesh Patel).
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