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American Desi

The film proves that we can look at our own identity and nationality with the kind of jest and humour which can rival even that of the acerbic Peter Sellers.

American Desi
Starring: Deep Katdare, Purva Bedi
Director: Piyush Dinkar Pandya
Rating: **

So you thought we Indians didn't like cracking a joke at ourselves. American Desi proves that we can look at our own identity and nationality with the kind of jest and humour which can rival even that of the acerbic Peter Sellers. Take the caricaturised Indian prof in the movie. He wears muffler and gloves to the centrally-heated classroom, can't get his grammar right, moves around with his flies open, brings a seven-course Indian meal in a tiffin box, washes his hands in the very dishes he eats out of and burps in abandon, unmindful of the people around. Here's a case of doing unto ourselves what Sellers did years ago to the Bengali moshai.

The film itself is a Bend It Like Beckham transported to America, a funny Beverly Hills 90210 peopled with an Indian cast and also a slight tale of the dilemma of the young wherein the character might dream of himself as the reincarnation of Van Gogh but has to end up studying thermodynamics. All because the authoritarian father orders so. Most of all, American Desi is a cute-as-a-button love story which begins with the hero asking the girl if she could buy him a pizza. Kris, alias Krishna Gopal Reddy (Katdare), is an Indian born and brought up in America who can't speak Hindi, tries desperately to stay away from his ghettoised Indian flat-mates and doesn't know anything about Hindi films. In fact, he abhors them. He prefers to mix with American youngsters who think Indians like to get drunk and dance naked in the moonlight. But things come a full circle when Kris falls for an Indian girl, Neena (Bedi).

American Desi is not a radical new brand of cinema. It just tells a straight story of reconciling with one's identity in a simple and at times naive and predictable manner. The caricatures could be grating at times and the finale is filmi and slapstick with the good guys warding off the bad ones. Nonetheless, the film has some warm and spontaneously funny moments. Its appeal lies in the fact that the protagonists, and their one-liners and easy banter, are utterly real and likeable. No wonder, the film's college humour seems to be working very well with our MTV youth. The film's been played out with wonderful ease by a cast that doesn't seem to have ever faced the camera before. A case of a great ensemble performance where everyone gets their timing right and where you end up feeling as much for the hero's buddies as for him. American Desi is very entertaining primarily because it doesn't take itself seriously. It's like watching a comic book on the big screen and makes for one of the least self-conscious films of 2002.

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