Loins of Punjab Presents (2007)
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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.
Loins of Punjab is the name of a company, which organizes a singing reality show called the Desi American Idol in New Jersey. The film takes a closer look at the kind of people who participate in the show, and the politics of it all.
All in all... 9 Stars
The Gujarati family (Patels, naturally) is mined for much hilarity... the writer-director obviously knows the scene well, and most of the laughs come out of their bumpkin hi-jinx. Several other characters (especially Ajay Naidu's) are nicely drawn, while some (including, surprisingly, Shabana Azmi's) fall very flat.
Production values are well below what one would expect from a Tisch/NYU film school product, but obviously funds were at a premium.
That having been said, ensemble comedy movies are among the toughest to pull off, and Manish has redeemed himself well in making the various story lines work. The audience I saw it with in Bombay was definitely appreciative of his efforts.
All in all, nothing great or earthshaking, but a creditable and unassuming first feature which leaves 95% of Bollywood movies with 20 times the budget well in the dust...
A 'Desi Idol' Hindi singing contest is sponsored by a meat company in New Jersey (hence the title). A very odd assortment of contestants, including a young Jewish guy, and a gay Indian rapper vie for the crown as we follow each of their stories.
While clearly done on a tiny budget, the acting is all good, often better than that. And there is such an infectious good will to the piece that I forgave any rough edges.
I didn't laugh a lot, but I smiled almost the whole time I was watching. And any film that can do that is alright by me!
The humour works very well as it mocks the extreme patriotism of many NRIs (non-residential Indians). 'Loins of Punjab Presents' also stresses on the hypocrisy of their mentality. The reverse stereotype and craze towards Bollywood was a refreshing touch.
The acting is terrific all around.Ajay Naidu, Ayesha Dharker, Seema Rahmani, Jameel Khan, Darshan Jariwala, Ishitta Sharma, Manish Acharya and Kunaal Roy Kapur perform splendidly. Michael Raimondi stands out as the naive Josh who loves the Indian culture no matter how badly the people treat him. The outstanding Shabana Azmi delivers yet another transcendent subtle performance as the vamp Mrs. Rrita.
In one sentence, 'Loins of Punjab Presents' is a refreshing comedic gem, like a breath of fresh air that will make you laugh.
But every once in a while a movie like this hits the mainstream, and almost all of these movies are unable to cope with this status.
Thats what happened to this movie, what was meant to be a quite listing and maybe even a quieter exit suddenly became quite a talked about film. The first few batches of movie goers had the luxury of seeing the movie for what it is and thoroughly enjoyed it, but people like me (mostly hardcore commercial movie watchers with the occasional offbeat comedy or action film) went into this movie expecting so much more, the expectations were hyped to the extent of a mainstream film, and i guess the fault lies with me as much as anybody else.
The movie starts of well enough with the explanation of the title and the introduction to the characters, the jokes are not really knew, anyone who has seen earlier NRI films would be familiar with the humour and style of this film, a few jokes are inspired to the point of being lifted (the futures analyst based on Along came Polly) and many many more.
Yet most of the jokes have repeat value and may even be knew for a large part of the audience, so we laughed but deep down I knew many of the laughs were forced.
The cast was stellar with superb acting all around, each and everyone looked and acted their part perfectly, I was particularly impressed with Manish Acharya, when he acted awkward on screen i actually felt what the character felt.
The drama was handled well too, there were the mandatory tears but nothing was over melodramatic.
The movie reeked of its lesser budget and it would have added to the feel had i not expected so much.
The humour is mainly slapstick but the advantage of its low budget and offbeat cast means that it will please the critics too.
The songs used were very nice and the few original ones were also catchy,i wonder who sang for the cast because she was too good, if its not a big name im sure she will be one in the future.
However alls not well for this movie, its TOO PREDICTABLE, also working against it is that the biggest scene of the movie towards the end IS BEING OPENLY DISCUSSED, chances are you already know about it before you step into this movie, save for the ABCD almost every NRI film character finds their place here.
The length helps a bit in this department, the blink and you miss it run-time means that just when you are about to feel that all this to much you the movie reaches its climax and your out of the theater.
Even though i enjoyed this movie, i cant help but imagine what would have been if i had gone into this movie with a clean slate like some other NRI films like East is East and American Desi.
Watch with appropriate expectations and you wont be disappointed paying premium rates at a multiplex will almost certainly ruin this film for you.
-s TOO PREDICTABLE, HIGHLY INSPIRED, TOO MUCH HYPE PUSHING IT TO MAINSTREAM STATUS.
+/-s many jokes have repeat value.
+s some really funny original moments as well, great attempt, superb cast, casting and performances.
total 6/10 (factoring part of the fact that i watched this movie with unrealistic expectations this movie had the potential of being a 7 or 8 and i felt it was just OK so I've taken the middle path and given it a 6)
What I loved in the movie is as to how people are dying to participate and create a name for themselves and to what extent they would go to win, but in the end, the purest of all hearts wins the prestigious award.
You always want a reaction from the audience as to how they would react, after the movie. This was my first movie, when we had to react as the director asked the whole audience. The background to this is a whole lot of Indians are participating in the singing competition where the prize is $25000. Most of the contestants are Indians, except one, he participates to impress his Indian girlfriend. He had practices only one song, and didn't know that he would make to the next round, in the next round he sings in Indian National Anthem, Jana Gana Mana... and the director informs us to stand a little advance as the respect that we do give to the anthem. This was completely mind blowing cause you have never asked to do something in the theatre in most non-personal manner.
The characters in the movie are very very stereotypical that you would see, the objectives, the cunningness, the stupidity all just to win the trophy. To name some of them Shabana Azmi, we though she is a vamp, she done her role pretty well; Ayesha Dharker, she is nice and subtle; Darshan Jariwall as the head of Patel family and the accent that everyone uses - brilliant.