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A ruthless philantrophist. A bhangra rapper. An over-protected prodigy. A reckless actress. A lovelorn businessman. An entrepreneurial yogi. And a Loin King. Enter a roller-coaster world of seven strangers whose lives collide during a singing contest in a small New Jersey town. Written by
Manish Acharya's highly original comedy has the bounce, bubbling eccentricity, and perfect comic timing of the best of the screwball era. It's like a visit to an updated and internationalized version of the days when you could count on a movie for an hour and a half of fun and leave your cringe-protection gear at home.
A movie-song singing contest takes places over the course of one weekend in a hotel deep in Indian-occupied New Jersey. The setup provides a sturdy structure for the kind of surprise-a-minute hilarity that gives screwball its velocity. Maybe something about Indian ex-patriate culture, as well as Acharya's talent, produces the lovely mix of naiveté and sophistication, the obvious and the unexpected (and the unexpected obvious, like the Indian-American guy whose job has been outsourced to India) that keeps all the balls spinning.
Acharya (director, co-writer, actor) manages the much-harder-than-it-looks task of braiding together the stories of a set of at least a dozen contestants and side-characters in a way that keeps us consistently laughing about them, caring about them, and even thinking, in an off-hand way, about one or two things bigger than the contest outcome.
In one of the film's many comic peaks, the slogan "Foreigner Go Home!!" is hurled at contestant Josh Cohen by fellow New Jersey residents, but the moment is just a stop on the road to a near-throwaway last word, both idiotic and profound, uttered by a man in crocodile-patterned Lurex, that dizzily pulls to the foreground a thought or two that have been there all along about who, in our country at its most diverse best, is inside, who's outside, and whether it matters if there even is an "inside" anyhow.
If you're worried about having to sit through too much "Indian singing" don't be! Very few songs are rendered all the way through, and, as in a Bollywood movie, the story almost always keeps going on during the song. And: the show-stopping bhangra rap song is entirely in English, as is the whole movie for that matter..
PS for non-South Asians the vindictive socialite, Rrita Kapoor, is played by Shabana Azmi, India's equivalent of Meryl Streep (apologies to both), a great and beautiful actress known for decades of roles in serious movies and also for courageous activities on behalf of social causes in India.
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