Review: Loins of Punjab Presents

23 September, 2007


No, this movie does not claim to provide a peek into the life of desis settled in America. No, it doesn’t re-introduce the second generation Indian Americans. And no, it does not ridicule them either. What this movie does do, is tickles you the moment it starts – though, not hard enough.

The film starts with the introduction of a certain Loin of Punjab (who made his money selling pork chops and such, and hence got the title). In a marketing exercise, the Loin wants to organize a Desi Idol contest, with the cash prize of $25,000 (with no strings attached – whatever the hell that means), and hands over the look-see to Mr. Bokade, the sleazy event manager (Jameel Khan, very funny in parts, but gets repetitive). The contestants start poring in, and the auditions start.

I’d like to add here that I saw the movie in two parts – I came in late, missed the first half of the movie, saw the second half, and bought another ticket to see the first half. The movie is delightfully short – an approximate one hour twenty five minutes.

So we have a bunch of quirky contestants. Preeti Patel, with her entire Gujrati clan – Papa, mummy, uncle, aunt, brothers – the designations printed on the back of their T-shirts – cute, but not really funny (the heads of the family played by Darshan Zariwala and Loveleen Mishra, very convincing). She is talented all right, but not really sure if she should be doing this.

A pair of Sikh-rappers –probably the funniest in the movie, if not the most original, and they add the F word to everything they say – very charming indeed!

An analyst who is unemployed because his job was outsourced to India (yawn), and who goes horny (not in the literal sense) every time numbers are mentioned (played by director Manish Acharya himself, pretty good.)

 A pretty wannabe actress who doesn’t know Hindi, but pretends that she does, and hopes she’ll be a big star.

A scheming socialite (Shabana Aazmi, sassy, but we have seen this act before in a couple of other Indy movies), who will stop at nothing to win the prize.

The jokes are old, sometimes even clichéd. The Gujarati family thing has been done to death in every other movie we have seen, and just about managed to get a smile out of me (for example Khakra, Papad, over-arguing). Also, we are talking about Indians living in America for a number of years – surely, they don’t embarrass themselves when they do go out with a large family? At the same time, it refreshingly is not over-done, and they kept the one-liners and gags to a bare minimum, so it didn’t become over-bearing.

The film does have its funny/touching moments – Bokade opening the door piss-drunk in his red undies, and talking incoherently, the Sikh rapper climbing and taking over the stage and wowing the audience, the elderly gentleman next door who suspects everyone of being a terrorist (since Indians talk in funny accents and wear turbans), and a National Anthem rendition by the American contestant which makes everyone in the audience stand up and sing along.

The treatment of the scenes has been kept subtle, mostly because of the low budget, but it works for this film. The film premiered at the Toronto Film
Festival, and wowed the audience, since it is a ‘passing-out’ feature for direct Manish Acharya. What really works for the movie is the excellent screenplay and the effortless acting. Arbind Kannabiran is excellent as the cinematographer, and shows much promise, if only he had more resources to play with.

Overall, Loins of Punjab Presents is an utterly watchable movie. True, it didn’t really ‘wow’ me, but did manage to get a few honest laughs or two out of me. First time director Manish Acharya has already arrived, and he just may be another Nagesh Kuknoor in the making. Do watch it for the really honest performances, and an equally honest attempt by the director.



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