Chutney Popcorn (1999) Poster

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Love, Kids, Lesbians
quin19748 January 2001
I liked this movie a lot. It depicted the life of the second-generation immigration children in New York City well enough to feel for them. These are people who have no permanent roots as director Ganatra says: "These people don't feel Really at home in India because they are too American, but they don't feel really at home in America because they are Indian." Now combine this with lesbianism and surrogate motherhood and you could get a very hefty movie, one that probably would have ultimately just made fun if itself.

But on the contrary this is not the fact with this film. It is a very warm funny depiction of the troubles Ganatra's character is going through. It is funny, witty and it has a fell-good ending.

The acting is way better than average, especially by the sister (Sakina Jaffrey) and the mother (Madhur Jaffrey) of Ganatra's character. The rest of the cast is fine, too.

I was fortunate enough to be present at a screening of this feature with afterwards a Q&A session with Director Nisha Ganatra and Writer Susan Carnival. In this session Ganatra explained that this film was kept light-hearted on purpose, they knew that they could make this into this incredibly heavy piece, but they chose not too. This shines a whole different light on the movie.

A fine film, see it.

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An interesting look at non-traditional Indian family relationships...
raop747 October 2001
As an Indian American and a female, I was pleasantly delighted by this movie. I found it to be very funny and especially interesting because of the lesbian themes. It surprised me to see this in the movie, because Indians generally feel uncomfortable talking about homosexuality at all. I don't think it's necessarily a bias or prejudice against it, just conservatism.

I didn't really relate to any of the characters in the movie, mostly because there were too many characters and little development of any of their personalities. But I adored Madhury Jaffrey, who was very natural and realistic as the mother. She reminds me so much of my own mother, and many of the things she says to her two daughters about marriage and family are comments my own mother's made to me. It was strangely comforting to see the ambivalence that Indians born and raised in the US feel in trying to maintain their culture while being true to themselves. Until now, I haven't seen it discussed so frankly and honestly in a movie.
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Interesting concept; flawed execution
Red-1251 January 2003
"Chutney Popcorn" takes on major issues-- lesbian identity, cultural identity, and intergenerational differences. However, I could never believe in the basic situation. This, in turn, prevented me from becoming involved with the characters and their plights.

The protagonist, Reena, played by Director Nisha Ganatra, is a henna artist in a beauty parlor. Her partner, Lisa--I missed her occupation--is played by Jill Hennessy.

Ms. Hennessy's great beauty unbalances the plot. We never understand why these two partners love each other, and what there is about Reena that makes Lisa stay with her through the ups and downs of the fairly predictable plot.

Several other lesbian women hover around the couple, but their place is the film was never clear to me.

Any couple has difficulties in their relationship. No doubt--even in New York City--same-gender couples have more difficulties, and culturally-diverse couples have still more problems.

I give the director credit for focussing on these problems. However, I don't think she really explored the problems in depth. Basically, she placed them before us on the screen, and then solved them for us.

This is a film that I wish had been better. I believe it is worth seeing, but not worth a special effort.
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Fun and dramatic at the same time
esorYlime1 September 2001
What really stands out about Chutney Popcorn is the sense of humor that persists through an emotional plot, and this gives it a good degree of realism. Even as the family is falling apart, one can still laugh at their quirks. Life, and the funny moments that define it, goes on for these people. The humor transforms this film from the overdone melodrama it could have been into a sweet and convincing story.

The realistic quality of this film is what makes it so wonderful, in my opinion. The characters are really genuine human beings who talk like real people instead of actors with a script. There aren't any gaping plot holes or implausible events. There's plenty of lesbian humor that you don't have to be part of the gay culture to understand, and the family's Indian heritage has its parallels in any family's cultural background. The camerawork, acting, everything pretty much makes the film down to earth and real. The movie was a bit slow at times (the plot isn't really conducive to a lot of action) but it held my attention.

If you're a fan of movies about people and family, go see this! Expect more character-based humor than slapstick - it's not so much a comedy as a story that happens to have funny moments. Check this movie out, it's a lot of fun.
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Good try, not necessarily successful
Captain Ed26 June 2000
For what this film is -- a low-budget indie targeted mostly at the expanding lesbian audience -- this isn't too bad of a film. Not my cup of tea, but there's an earnestness and grit that this production has that you can't help respecting.

That being said --

I felt that the central character of Rena was almost Job-like in dealing with family issues, and that most people would have blown off the family by that point. I certainly had a hard time believing that anyone would have offered to carry a surrogate pregnancy for a sister as demeaning and awful as Rena's. I also felt that the actress playing Rena (also the director) was half-asleep during most of the movie. The part needed more energy.

Most of the rest of the principals turned in good performances, especially Jillian Hennessey from Law & Order (I almost didn't recognize her without the dark hair and business suit). Some of the peripheral characters were Offbeat-stereotype lesbians; not much to work with there. The script suffered from some ridiculous dialogue and situations. The worst was probably in the waiting room, where two of the minor characters crudely act out a birth (in front of the two grandmothers, no less) and then petulantly wonder why Rena's taking so long. Come on, these are lesbians, not idiots. I think they understand the birth process a little better than that. I think children of eight understand the birth process better than that, and have better manners as well.

Like I said, not my cup of tea, and has some serious shortcomings, but it was a good effort and is worth a watch, if you don't mind the subject matter.
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beatles55119 August 2001
I recently happen to come across this film in Blockbuster. I never heard of the film before...why is that? I now own it and have seen it several times. On the whole I enjoyed it very much. My only complaint is that there are a few audio moments that are hard to grasp. The music chosen is tasteful and fits quite well. All the actors are wonderful. I loved seeing Jill Hennessy in something other than "Law and Order." What a difference! This is a very credible story and unfolds with dignity, humor, and sensitivity. I hope to see more of Nisha's work. Keep your talent out there!
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Yikes! What a disaster.
a3amboy14 September 2000
I cannot believe the few good notices this film has received. It is by far one of the worst things I've seen in a while, and I sat through Trick!

Nisha Ganatra has fashioned a film so utterly devoid of any charm, personality or warmth that it is impossible to feel anything for the plight of her characters. Not only that, but their sheer unpleasantness and bloated sense of entitlement makes you hope things turn out much worse.

Madhur Jaffrey embarrassess herself by putting on what can only be described as The Bollywood epitome of an Amos & Andy character. And in the middle of all this mess is a maternity waiting room scene so ridiculous and inexplicable, it defies explanation.

Through it all, Ganatra sleep-walks through the film playing the lead character, Reena, as though she'd taken a handful of dolls during pre-production and they never quite wore off. In one badly photographed scene, she stands like a deer caught in the headlights until she finally "snaps out of it" and moves on to the next shot.

It's a mystery why gay and lesbian audiences will accept drivel like this and act as though they'd been given a supreme gift.

Ganatra needs to pick one thing (writing, directing or acting) and do it badly. All three is just too painful to have to sit through.

Skip the vanity New York City release. It's already played on cable, anyway.
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nice story, good characters,
mindfire-316 March 2001
ok, i have some preparation for this film before seeing it in that i am a white guy married to an Indian woman, have gay friends, and i have an affinity for independent films, but this film has great characters and lots of charm. so, it sort of feels like an independent film in that it doesn't feel glossy all over and the characters are more offbeat, those are plusses in my book. it is a very human movie about the experiences of life with other people. my wife really liked it too. if you liked this movie, another really good non-traditional Canadian-Indian movie is Masala (not Mississippi Masala) from 1991 by Srinivas Krishna.
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Engaging and witty!
YorkvilleGirl2 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I received this DVD as an unexpected gift, and was utterly charmed by its humor and warmth.

The two lead actresses are so natural and unpretentious, that you feel as if you really know them as real human beings. I watched the movie straight through, which is totally unusual for most DVDs.

At first, I felt bad for the married sister because she couldn't have her own baby, but as the film wore on, I found her spoiled and self-absorbed. I couldn't understand her lack of empathy for Reena, considering that she was doing her such an amazing favor. In the end, you had to wonder how long that marriage was going to last. Contrast to that to the potent chemistry, maturity and openness of Reena and Lisa. Lisa wasn't even biologically related to the baby, yet she loved HER partner enough to want to be a parent.

I loved this movie!
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not worth the time, effort or money.
k.aisola20 January 2001
exaggerated pseudo-"indian" rituals, bad music, language. the lead role, played by the director, is very unattractive and poorly acted. long shots focussing on her hair flying as she rides a mobike in a leather jacket to sad indian elevator music doesn't help.

madhur jaffrey plays the mother, which she does well enough, but this is hardly a film to follow her much applauded acting in, say, various merchant-ivory productions. her daughter sakina plays a pretty elder sister to the lead.

there are a few amusing lines, but i wouldn't bother to see this film, and we had to buy tickets to the coen brothers' "o brother where art thou" to make up for this disappointment.

oh yes, i forgot the plot. doesn't matter, you'll forget it too.
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Loved it!!!
myrealitynow23 September 2005
I disagree with the reviews talking about this movie being awful and having "psuedo-Indian" traditions. I'm from India and I think the mother is portrayed perfectly. Half of the comments out of the mom seem like my mom wrote them. Watch this movie! It's well done and sure it doesn't have a huge Hollywood budget, but it's a good movie, with heartfelt humor and affection. :) it makes me happy every time I see it. One of the things I like about this movie is it has a gay character but it's not a gay movie. They hit on real issues whether your family has someone gay or not. It's one of the few movies out there dealing with modern issues and modern Indian families and modern families in general.
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Brilliant, hilarious, touching
alisonnic2 March 2003
This brilliant film is so funny that it had me in tears of laughter. Yet seconds after its funniest moment it has one of the most powerful and moving scenes I've ever seen on film.

This movie is all the more remarkable because it was made by two women who had essentially zero financial backing, and who had to beg, borrow or steal everything it took to make the movie. And Nisha Ganatra - the director, co-writer, and leading actor - had no previous film experience.

The story steps outside the box. Yes, it's about lesbians and it's about the sometimes uneasy mix of cultures that results from immigration, but most lesbian movies are coming-out stories, and most culture clash movies focus on the tribulations of immigrants adjusting to their new culture. This movie focuses on second-generation women caught between the traditions, practices, and world views of their Indians family and their American friends - and the coming-out part is more or less only a sidebar to the main story.

Most fundamentally, this is a story about two sisters, the desire of one to help the other after her sister suffers a major loss - and the havoc that her sometimes clumsy actions (and the mistaken assumptions her family makes about her and her actions) wreak in the lives of everyone close to them.

Ultimately it's a story about growth and change, but it steps outside the Hollywood box in another way. Unlike almost all traditional films, not only the central character but everyone around her also goes through a process of growth and change.

I loved the acting as well. Jill Hennessy is gorgeous and wonderful to watch - and her sultry voice makes listening to her a joy as well. Sakina and Madhur Jaffrey are both delightful, and Nisha Ganatra is extremely convincing as a shy, sweet, introverted and perhaps naive young woman with a generous heart.

Unlike the typical Hollywood blockbuster, watching these women made me feel like I was just hanging out with some friends - which in my mind is a sure sign of pure artistry. Nisha's performance is all the more remarkable considering she never intended to act in the movie and stepped in only at the last moment when she lost her leading lady.

This film is a remarkable achievement, and a marvelous experience.
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kick myself
cinemazit31 May 2002
I rented this film after hearing Roger Ebert mention it on "At the Movies." I really enjoyed seeing it. Weeks later I was still saying aloud, out of the blue, my favorite line: "big, old dyke" and be grinning from ear to ear. It was the first time I saw Jill Hennessy in anything, so, now, whenever I see her on tv, I say: There's Lisa. Oh yeah, Blockbuster had a previously viewed copy for sale one week my personal funds were too low to buy it. It was gone the next week.
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Charming, honest, and very very funny.
tangobamboo17 February 2002
You'll be a better person if you drop all your useless defenses and just innocently enjoy this sweet movie. The actors are perfectly cast, the plot is unpredictable, and the dialogue rings utterly true to life. I found this film while browsing aimlessly at Blockbuster, and I consider it a unique treasure. Plus, it is hilarious.
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A Great Feel Good Drama
qcmasters3 February 2013
Watching Chutney Popcorn, it felt very real, very believable. It captured the drama of the two couples struggling, one with the misfortune of infertility, the other with a pregnancy they can't come to peace with. The life of the lesbian couple is portrayed honestly, not in a preachy context as some films do. It's much more accessible, especially to those not in tune with gay life.

One area where this film truly succeeds is in its humor. Masterful smatterings of amusing scenes break the weight of the main story's drama. The insemination scene is particularly funny, and the scene where Lisa falls off the couch sticks in my mind.

The love interests are neither idealized nor villainized, but portrayed as realistic individuals complete with their virtues and faults. Both Nisha Ganatra and Jill Hennessy do a great job, and the love scene is wonderful. Chutney Popcorn is a great feel good drama.

Q.C. Masters – Author of the Path Not Chosen
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A big little chutney-flavored film.
=G=8 December 2000
"Chutney Popcorn" is a warmhearted, earnest, sincere story with a subtle sense-of-humor. With all the ear marks of a low budget independent film, this flick moves with serenity and honesty through the lives of some New York City dwellers including a surrogate mother, some Indian-Americans, some lesbians, and some others. Not for the mindless masses, this flick will play best with those who appreciate brave independent films.
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Great film
yasser20 October 2000
Absolutely fabulous film. Nisha sets the tone wonderfully.

Madhur Jaffrey is great (not a fan of her cooking shows!).

Great soundtrack as well (if anyone knows one can get it please let me know :-) ).
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Its all good!!
eddievas12 August 2000
This film which I saw an early cut of was refreshing, captivating, and needs to be seen.

A brave combination of culture, family and sexual orientation, blended into a universal story of poeple.

Breaking stereotypes and wholly unpredictable, i can't wait to see her next project!!
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witty movie
moranj-129 January 2006
Ganatra has a knack for wit and a whole lot more! This movie has a little something of all emotions. The serious subject matter of intricate family (parental, sibling, extended family) relationships, relationships with significant others, and the bonds of friendships and ex's.

The movie blends the humorous, the mundane, the average, the life-changing, and the somber events of the characters' lives into a riveting storyline. You'll ride the wave of emotions into a journey you won't soon forget.

The scene between the ex's (80's flashback) is really something special...and hilarious! It's fun to watch others evaluate their lives while we have the luxury of sitting back and enjoying!
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Go see it, it's lots of fun
Billiam-417 February 2000
It's about a lesbian couple, one of which is from an Indian family (that is India , not native America). Her sister marries, but is unable to get a baby, so the lesbian sister offers to become the surrogate mother. It's all problems from there.

This sounds like heavy drama, but the contrary is the case, it is a very lighthearted and delicately directed comedy, where at the end not all problems are solved.

Directress Nisha Ganata who also plays the main character of the surrogate mother was present here at the Berlin film festival together with the actresses Sakina Jaffrey (the married sister) and the very beautiful Jill Hennessy. The film got a tremendous applause.

There are often such low-budget movies where you can really see how much love and devotion was involved in the making of the film. It is very clear that everybody had great fun making this film and every detail comes as natural as if it were a true story. The slight very enjoyable humor transmutes an otherwise serious topic into a feel-good experience without betraying it's sincerity.
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Awful, Awful, Awful
StingMeNow20 January 2001
What a stupid portrayal of the Indian, should have child, wanna be different woman! If you wanna see a movie on lesbian issues, go see "if these walls could talk 2". Or maybe - "Fire" is more suited to the Indian theme! This movie's a waste!
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Reena, that stuff really smells.
lastliberal19 January 2009
Wow! I never imagined Jill Hennessy ("Crossing Jordan") in such a great movie, as the lesbian lover of Reena (Nisha Ganatra in her first screen role). This is a charming tale of families and how they deal with their daughters.

But, enough of that, we have a problem. Reena's sister Sarita (Sakina Jaffrey - Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, "Third Watch") has just gotten married and finds out she can't have children. What to do? Momma needs a grandchild to spoil! Numerous potions, gimmicks, and superstitions were employed to get Sarita pregnant.

When nothing works Reena decides to be a surrogate mom. Boy, do things get funny and complicated on both sides.

Where this goes is unpredictable, but it is a refreshing look at Indian and Western culture, with lesbian culture in the middle. It's a blast.

It also has a great soundtrack.
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Maybe I am too radical
lexm417 June 2000
Firstly, it's a refreshing film worth watching. Indian/Lesbian twist really adds spice on an old rebellious child eloping plot.

I have some problems with some minority themed films. In these films, somehow gay/lesbian always had a brief dancing with heterosexuality, and minority character has to have conflict with mother culture by dating white guy/gal. What's up with that? Otherwise audience won't "get it"? It's almost "pandering" to mass audience.

But then others might say "otherwise it might not worked". It really depend what the author is trying to make, a "product" or an art statement or whatever is in between.
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