Lively ‘Desi Movies’: Going beyond Monsoon Wedding

Many good movies have come out of Indians living abroad in the last decade. Monsoon Wedding is highly known, but there is a lot more to look at. Here are five such movies.

Most of my American and European friends have seen Monsoon Wedding by Meera Nair. This is by far the most popular movie till today by an Indian director based abroad. But there are many more good movies that are worth watching that are much lesser known. Here’s a quick introduction.

The acclaimed Meera Nair has taken quite a few movies. Among these, I am fond of Salaam Bombay and Mississippi Masala. Salaam Bombay is a vivid portrayal of the life of a ‘street child’ in Bombay. The movie has a litany of awards to its credit including Golden Globe at Cannes. Salaam Bombay is all too real, and thus all too disturbing. It is a fantastic movie to watch about a side of India that would not be represented in a typical Bollywood movie. Mississippi Masala by contrast is a joyful comedy based on racial prejudices of an Indian family that migrates to Mississippi. The film stars Denzen Washington, a hardworking blue collar worker who falls in love with an Indian girl. The family comes to terms with the daughter falling in love with a black man. The movie deftly deals with solidarities among Indians, their racism, and other cultural aspects in a jovial manner. Roshan Seth plays the father and the famous Sharmila Tagore plays the mother of Sarita (played by Meena).

Closely following the popularity of Monsoon Wedding is Bend it like Beckham. This comedy deals with the travails of a conservative Indian family coming to grips with a daughter whose interest is football. Parminder, the central character, is fascinated with football and starts playing in a team clandestinely when her parents deny her the permission to play in a professional team. The family is unable to come to terms with the Daughter’s yearning for a “masculine” sport. In this melee a lot of things go wrong. Her teammate’s mother starts suspecting that they’re lesbians, her sister’s in-laws see her escapades and create confusion. A beautiful story is scripted amidst all this confusion about an identity crisis of an Indian family living in UK. Gurinder Chadda has made this movie fun to watch in every scene and the actors have risen to the occasion wonderfully.

One of the most entertaining ‘Desi’ movies I have seen is American Desi. Krishna, who is born and brought up in USA cares little for Indian customs. To his consternation, he is assigned to a dorm full of Indian students. Things start changing when he falls in love with Purva who cares for Indian traditions. The movie is out and out entertaining and plays around with quirks and identity crisis wonderfully. The story does not demand any high strung action and to the credit of the actors, they have played their roles appropriately. Many among the cast have acted in an enjoyable movie called Greencard Fever. Greencard fever is a romance between an illegal Indian immigrant and an America born Indian girl. Bharti comes to terms with her Indian identity through her relationship with Murali. The movie has a dash of humour and deals with many ‘desi’ issues deftly.

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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