Rating : Above average (3.8/5)
Genre : Comedy
Year : 2007
Running time : 1 hours 28 minutes
Director : Manish Acharya
Cast : Shabana Azmi, Darshan Jariwala, Loveleen Mishra, Ayesha Dharker
Kid rating : PG-13
I’ve heard this movie being hyped to the heavens. And it’s been a while waiting for “Loins of Punjab” to release on DVD. It finally did this April. It’s a little known movie, and seems like it’s shot on a shoestring budget. There is one big star – Shabana Azmi, and a few other well known names like Darshan Jariwalla, Ayesha Dharker, Loveleen Mishra etc. But regardless of their star power, they all do well – acting is immaculate. The film is set in New Jersey, where a meat company “Loins of Punjab” has decided to arrange for a desi talent competition called Desi Idol.
There are many contenders, and some of the main ones are smooth-talking socialite Rrita Ishaan Kapoor (Azmi), Priti Patel (Ishhita Sharma), Indophile Josh Cohen (Michael Raimondi), Punjabi rapper Turbanotorious BDG (Ajay Naidu), and American born wanna-be actress Saniya Rehman (Seema Rahmani). All contenders come from different backgrounds, and have different “stories”. Some have families supporting them like Preeti Patel with her large Gujrati parivar, some have connections like Rrita Kapoor, some have supportive desi girlfriends like Josh, and some are in it just by themselves like Sania Rehman. The organizers themselves are a motley bunch, with a penchant for “Gipsy Kings“ music. In short, desipan happens.
When such chaos reigns, who will win and how ?
Indians and those of Indian origin living in the US, have fashioned for themselves a little sub-culture which is uniquely “desi”. Its not Indian, and it’s not American. It’s of uncles and aunties caught in the warp of time gone by, looking back at India with nostalgia, while bringing up kids who bring home American words and slang and philosophy on a daily basis. It’s of Indian indirectness, demureness and purity (or the thought of them) warring with the forthright and WYSIWYG culture of the general American population. A few nods here and there, and a culture is formed out of the amalgamation of the two. LOPP puts this desi culture out on display.
The film is directed by Manish Acharya, and he does the whole desi scene really well. There’s the heightened anticipation for everything Indian, be it cultural or not. There’s the desi “keeping up with the Joneses” theme. There’s the desi leering and leching and the desi prejudices. There’s Indian stretchable time and the overwrought speeches. There’s the overbearing Gujju family, complete with coordinating T-shirts and banners to cheer on their family’s cultural icon. There’s the nudging and the winking, the eye-rolling and the tittering, the string-pulling and the one-upping (you know what I mean). Good old desi culture, yeah ? Yes, and then there’s desi drama, music, dance, romance and plain laugh-out-loud moments. There’s enough masala in here to keep me cooking a while.
The acting is great. Shabana Azmi is so good, she’s almost oozing nastiness with every smile. Ayesha “pouty-lips” Dharker is wonderful as Opama Menon trying to shield her good-hearted non-desi boyfriend from her prejudicial countrymen (and women). Loveleen Mishra (remember her ?) is gorgeous as Alpa Patel, the seemingly constrained mother of a talented singer. Jameel Khan as Mr. Bokade was simply too lecherous for words – very well done indeed. Character development is good – I believed each of the characters except maybe Turbanotorious, who didn’t seem like a genuine Sardar – bad casting call, maybe ?
The film is written by Manish Acharya and Anuvab Pal, who‘s sense of humor I’m in awe of. In this unique story they bring together conservative desi uncles and aunties together with bhangra rapping gay Sardars, to cite just one example. Yeah, imagine that ! Acharya, who provided a “voice of discussion” in the animated “Sita sings the blues” also makes an appearance in the film as Vikram Tejwani.
“LOPP” is a smart little vignette of a film. If you are familiar with the desi community, you’ll find yourself nodding in agreement at the stuff in the film, and smirking at the sly digs. The direction and screenplay while not remarkable, are adequate. And if I pick at it, there’s nothing really wrong with this film. It’s just a little . . . low-key, a little short on . . . oomph, and I would have wished for better production values. If you are looking for a decent little film however, especially if you are Indian born, or an NRI, this is it. Just don’t get swayed by all the swash-buckling reviews out there; while it is good, it just isn‘t all that.
Kidwise : This film is almost clean, but contains a few scenes with some adult situations, and talk. An OK watch maybe, for older teens.