Krishna Reddy (Deep Katdare) finally leaves his Indian family home in suburban America for college, where he expects to shrug off the shackles of Indian culture and be known as Kris. But he’s horrified to discover he’s been billetted with a roomful of other Desis*, three Indian Americans college students whose links to their cultures (including chicken tikka masal) remain firm while their Western interests (in girls) continues in the balance. And when he starts falling for Nina (Purva Bedi), Kris finds himself in conflict with everyone around him – including himself.
*Desi – Indian slang to describe anyone from India living somewhere else.
Review by Louise Keller:
A delightfully funny and upbeat college romp merging American and Indian culture, American Desi is a genuine audience pleaser. An impressive debut feature for writer/ director Piyush Dinker Pandya, when the story begins, we meet the protagonist in his home environment surrounded by incense, Indian décor and Hindi customs. He may look Indian, but he just wants to be like his all-American friend and can’t wait to leave it all behind. Krishna’s departure from home, with all his traditionally dressed-relatives standing on the front lawn, is a wonderful scene, and when Kris zooms off in the convertible, we know that he is counting on leaving it all behind and starting a new life. Of course, the fact that he is bunkered with Indian room-mates who follow their religious beliefs and customs is just the final straw. The story could well apply to any culture, not just Indian, and Kris’s romancing of the lovely Nina through the traditionally expected go-between, is one of the funniest sequences. The characters are beautifully written and the film never runs out of ideas. The performances are terrific and beyond the laughs, the film has a satisfying emotional curve, showing us that our pre-conceptions are often wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed American Desi – it’s an uplifting, at times hysterically funny, interesting concept, well executed.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A genuine breath of fresh air in the English speaking romantic comedy genre, American Desi approaches the college romantic situation from a different perspective and is enriched by that. The universality of the subject is easy to recognise, and I can see an Australian version where the central character is Greek, say, or Italian – but it could just as easily stay Indian. But the point of the story – the journey taken by Kris - is not so much the importance of ethnic tradition, but of Desis and their equivalents being able to embrace both their own culture and the culture in which they live. At a time when ethnic, racial and religious divisions around the world are fanning the flames of xenophobia, violence and hatred, it is a timely film. If only those that need to take notice would do so. But the film is far from a morality lesson; it’s exuberant fun, colourful, entertaining and sincere when it gets down to the dramatic core. The music is a real extra bonus, a showcase of songs from young Indian artists raised in the West, with a funky blend of East and West.
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AMERICAN DESI (M15+)
CAST: Deep Katdare, Purva Bedi, Anil Kumar, Ronobir Lahiri, Kal Penn, Rizwan Manji, Sunita Param, Aladdin
PRODUCER: Gitesh Pandya
DIRECTOR: Piyush Dinker Pandya
SCRIPT: Piyush Dinker Pandya
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Renato Falcao
EDITOR: Rob Tate
MUSIC: Wig (music supervision Brian ‘Bongo’ Davis)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Len Clayton
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Double Loop Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 9, 2002 (Sydney)