Review: Movies from NYIndianFF
On a rainy Saturday, I found myself nestled in a packed theater among other moviegoers, Indian actors such as Reshma Shetty of “Royal Pains” fame and excited parents and friends of the stars themselves. We’re all here to see “Let’s be out, the sun is shining”, the main feature and the two accompanying shorts, “The Plan” and “Color of Anger”.
“The Plan” is about a young woman, Kat , who works at an audio studio, trying to get a record deal but finds herself thwarted by her prickly boss, Janine. Kat divides her time between visiting her girlfriend, Radhika, who is in the hospital with a serious illness and her work—but she soon finds out that not everything goes to ‘plan’. What worked beautifully in the film, which was created by Vivek Sharma and Andrew Stone who are ‘partners in life and work’ as they so eloquently put it, is the love that is so apparent between the couple. The homosexuality is never questioned, made into a tense undercurrent or treated like the white elephant in the room; instead, it is accepted, understood and a non-issue. This is what makes the short so lovely—its openness.
“Color of Anger” centers around a young African American/Hispanic man, who struggles to deal with his abusive white father, who takes his frustration out on him and his Hispanic wife. The boy fuels his anger into skateboarding and parkour, a type of moving where instead of viewing things as obstacles in your way, you use them to propel you to your next destination (Casino Royale fight scene anyone?). Unfortunately, he also fuels his anger into drug abuse – snorting crack/cocaine. This short was a personal favorite of mine because of the play on the title. The subtle way racism is played into the film is beautifully done. The father throws his machismo around and acts entitled to ‘respect’ from his not-white family. In the end, the boy commits an act that only further reveals another play on the word ‘color’—with his father’s blood on his hand, he rolls down the sidewalk on his skateboard, showing that blood doesn’t separate us; it unites us. We are all scarlet inside.
“Let’s be out, the sun is shining,” has a terrific timely topic—assimilation, and what is lost and gained in that process. A young Indian girl, Diya, fights against the conservative mores of her family and moves to Bushwick, Brooklyn where she works at a bar, hangs out with actors and musicians, and ends up falling for a guitar player who doesn’t know what he wants. While the movie had some brilliant acting, namely from Lipica Shah (who plays Diya), a young 20-something graduate from NYU Tisch, (who was nominated for Best Actress for her role in this film), it held a negative, defeatist view of ‘fitting in’. “What have we become?” repeats Diya over and over, “Eastern girls become East Coast girls, become West Coast girls.” But what exactly is wrong with that? Samrat Chakrabarti, who plays Diya’s straight-laced older brother in the movie, says in the discussion after, “There is a Bollywood voice, a Hollywood voice, and movies like these are the voice of Indian Americans like us…” Assimilating is a painful process, speaking as an immigrant myself, but the ‘bad’ aspects are part of the greater more positive whole — a whole that many young Indian Americans would say is vital to who they are today. Chakrabarti talks about how this movie expounds on the joy of New York City and the experience of finding an identity – but while I saw the excitement for NYC, I didn’t see the excitement of being the constantly evolving citizens that we are. Still the movie makes you ponder, discuss and remember – which is the heart of story telling.