Loins / Meetup Wrapup

SF mutineers, together with writer / director Manish Acharya imbibed the Loins of Punjab last night as part of the SF South Asian film festival. Two word summary – it rocked.

Two word summary – it rocked.A crowd numbering several hundred packed the Castro theater in San Francisco for the laugh out loud ride and presented Acharya with a standing ovation and even a little bit of spontaneous singing (“Bole chudiyan… bole kangana…“) for his work. Although, as expected, Desi’s dominated the audience, the movie really resonated with the surprising gora / gori representation and the hispanic lesbian couple I was seated next to laughed most of the time as well. Still, much of the appeal of the genre comes from being in on the joke and the real magic is best experienced if you’re ABCD and perhaps even moreso if you’ve spent time in New Jersey.

Nevertheless, Loins is, by a wide margin, my new title holder for “Best ABCD Comedy.” My previous candidate was the (panned by many) Where’s the Party, Yaar about a group of desi college students in Houston. Both movies transcend the usual “cultural idenity” story line and instead solidly demonstrate a new, hybrid culture that’s neither here nor there but nevertheless confident about where it is and where it’s going. American and desi stereotypes blend fluidly and we’re far from feeling sorry for the folks with one foot on either side.


A Universe of Patels

Probably owing to the respective backgrounds of the film makers, WTPY is a bit more “American” in its character portrayals while Loins was far more Desi. Although both Manish Acharya and Benny Mathews of WTPY are 1.5 gen, Benny undoubtedly got most of his material from the Music Masala parties aimed at Houston’s desi young adults – hence, a more overt “hormones gone wild” and, unfortunately a generally less flattering FOB portrayal. By contrast, Loins of Punjab brings in a much broader audience of heroes and heroines sporting both ABD and DBD colors.

Loins, however, is yards ahead of Where’s the Party in the quality of its writing, execution, fit, and finish. Some critics weren’t impressed by the “gimmicky” humor but, as an audience commentor noted, Manish does a fantastic job of making old punchlines fresh and unexpected. I know we’ve seen the hero’s significant other defect and return a million times before… But, in Loins it’s so well executed that even a sophisticated, and sometimes cynical audience in a place like SF was still taken by surprise.

WTPY: ABCDs, FOBs, Boys, Girls, and a Party

The casting was superb and, as Acharya emphasized in Q&A after the flick, character development is the backbone of the movie. Their quirks and interactions had me solidly entertained for its hour and a half duration and I can honestly say that I wish the movie overall was longer. The title leads one to expect more story / character development around the Loin King, for example – a promising angle but one which is unexplored. Jameel Khan’s sleazy event producer made the most of his on-screen time and yet, I still wanted more. Ajay Naidu’s Turbantorious BDG was so well done I had a hard time believing it was really him dancing, rapping and shooting off angrier-than-thou lines. Still, going further down all these avenues while keeping within acceptable bounds for movie length would probably have been impossible and I’m forced to credit Acharya for his restraint.

It is critical to note that while poking fun at character and ethnic quirks (the individual Guju family members captured the panoply of stereotypes so well it’s scary), the comedy was ultimately good natured and uplifting. Yes, we’re often laughing at them but we also all recognize that the world would be a worse place without them. Acharya firmly believes & demonstrates that there are many paths to being a movie hero. And when the foundation for your story is a diaspora as diverse as India and America, it’s a fitting moral.

Straight Outta Da Pindh

Good news for mutineers in other cities – Acharya says that Loins is aiming for limited release in the US in March 2008.

After the movie, a dozen mutineers & I tried to converge on Samovar Tea Lounge for a mini-meetup…. However, the venue turned out to be far more of a restaurant than an alternative to Starbucks and menu’s + white-linen table service tends to be pretty antithetical to the flow of a meetup. So, we ended up rerouting ourselves across the street to Urban Bread for coffee and pastries. Consensus at the table was strongly positive and with many surprised by the negative reaction other mutineers seemed to have to the flick. To each his own, I suppose.

[related - Manish Vij's Loins of Punjab review & link compendium]

16 thoughts on “Loins / Meetup Wrapup

  1. Apparently I should have arrived a couple of hours earlier. Dosar (the next movie) was an unnecessary reminder of just how depressing Bengali culture is.

  2. and the hispanic lesbian couple I was seated next to

    Vinod: It’s such tidbits of important information that make your review endearing. :-D I look forward to watching the movie.

  3. Two word summary – it rocked.

    Yay! The Mutiny has taste! Glad you enjoyed it, and happy to hear it may be released elesewhere in 2008.

  4. Yeah, I’ll have to concur with the “many”. I’m even tangentially familiar with almost half the people involved with Where’s the Party Yaar, and I still think it’s awful.

  5. Thanks for the tip on this Vinod. The movie was great … audience participation was amazing, including getting people to stand during key scenes in the movie(you will have to see it), Shabana Azmi was so believable she even got the crowd to boo her (a difficult task at a south asian film festival :) . I can’t believe Ajay Naidu did his own break dancing … the guy must be in his late 30s.

    The Q and A was one of the most entertaining including getting Manish to sing his section of the song in the movie, which he did bashfully. I missed out on the meetup, but caught up with some friends from 3rdI who I haven’t seen in quite awhile.

    Dosar (the next movie) was an unnecessary reminder of just how depressing Bengali culture is.

    Or as the sleazy event planner in the movie said “you are from Calcutta or what?”

  6. Does anyone here knows when any of those movies will either be on DVD or playing in theaters in Georgia anytime soon? I just want to know because I have two movies that are finally coming out on DVD:

    THE CHIP FACTOR (featuring Professor Griff from the group Public Enemy) and

    THE COMMON DENOMINATORS

    both directed by Michael Harris of New Visions Film Group

    Check them out please at your local Blockbuster, WalMart, Target, Big Lots, Walgreens, Movie Stop, Barnes and Noble.com, Best Buy, Circuit City and other video/DVD rental stores.

    Support my films and I’ll definitely support yours, without a doubt.

  7. Vinod’s post: “My previous candidate was the (panned by many) Where’s the Party, Yaar about a group of desi college students in Houston. Both movies transcend the usual “cultural idenity� story line…”

    Another movie that transcended the cliched “cultural identity” angle and focused on the “desi generation gap” instead was “American Chai.” It is readily available in desi video stores. It is a must see for all mutineers who defied parental pressure to enter medicine or law and followed their own god-given talents instead. That probably describes most of you.

    I can’t wait to see “Loins of Punjab” but I hope my favorite actress of all times, Shabana Azmi, doesn’t disappoint me in an English speaking role again.

  8. Vinod, I agree, Where’s the Party Yaar, it was a guilty pleasure. The scene with the nerdy cousin listening to the Mattel tape player lip-synching “yaar dil daar tujhe kaisa chahiye” was hilarious. On a more sinister note, I’m actually planning to tap into the OCN (obscure cousin network) to keep tabs on my college-bound teen. :-)

  9. Thanks Vinod, for hosting a great meetup with cool people. (Sup, Razib?) Some of us pulled a Gin and Juice with our new-found friends and didn’t leave ’til six in the morning.

    And yes, the movie was brilliant. Instant classic.

  10. Loins was a blast. Especially seeing it in a theater. And how could we forget when the audience stood up for the Indian national anthem? I agree with the folks who appreciated WTPY. I thought Loins was better, but I still think WTPY deserves respeck.

  11. Where’s the Party Yaar? is highly underrated in my opinion. Although it looks like it was shot with handheld camera without securing the proper film permits, it has it’s moments.