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Paul Mayeda Berges
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan,
As Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect this man's life, family, and American society.
This is a story of a blended family. Anupam is Raj, the father;Dee is Jamie, the mother; Kristin is Maya, Jamie's daughter; and then there is Amita and Sunkrish, who play Niki and Brijesh, the children of Raj and his first wife who is dead. Somehow they've managed to make a family life, except Maya calls Raj by his name, not Dad like Niki and Brijesh. Raj runs the Bollywood Cafe, which is in LA. Jamie has a dance studio with a small class of students, including Maya, learning Kathak. And each night at suppertime, they all sit down together like a real family.
But the family harbors a secret that is like a bomb with a fuse that is slowly burning down. Raj is a afraid that when the fuse reaches its end, his family will blow to bits, and his life will be worthless without the family around him.
This is not the great stuff like The Namesake. But it has more depth than American Desi or Dude, Where's The Party. Some scenes are obviously put in to keep the younger crowd from falling asleep. Those scenes were places I had to grit my teeth and wait through.
Other places I really liked. Such as the several scenes about Kathak dance. Hardly ever does Kathak dance get minutes in a movie. So I was appreciative of the fact that in this movie, I got to see some. I'm assuming one or two of the actresses in the dance studio were actual proficient dancers inserted to create credibility.
The second thing I appreciated was Sunkrish Bala. I think I like him better than Kal Penn. There was less of the sense of apology for playing the type of role he was playing. More reality to him. He played it straight with no comedy at all. Its nice to see an NRI kid who isn't a clown. Amita Balla, who played the sister was really cute. I liked her. She had nice eyes, I thought.
Kristin Erickson, of course, probably had the hardest part. She had to pretend to be a mixed kid. I'm sure it took a lot of work to achieve some credibility, and I think she did it well.
The part of Raj is a really gray part. Raj is a GOOD man, but also a human who can make major errors of judgment. What is good about him is that he doesn't run from the responsibility for his errors, and also he is totally ready for the burdens of parenthood. As he says at one point, his family is what gives his life a point. He will do whatever he must do for his children.
Anyway, though sometimes I felt awkward about the screenplay, still this movie has more subtlety than the average. Varun Khanna, who wrote and directed the movie, deserves some credit about executing a story that is full of pitfalls.
The best line of the movie: Raj runs a restaurant. His two cooks are both immigrants, one from India, one from Mexico. When the Indian cook bursts into Punjabi, the Mexican cooks says "You're in America now! Speak Spanish!"
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