Been There, Done Than, Man!

A formula flick about Indians in America.

Unfortunately, "American Chai" is just Another Banal and Clichéd Desi English film (to extend the ABCD acronym further). There is absolutely nothing inventive about the plot - the clash between the immigrant parents, who want to pursue the American dream of freedom and liberty yet remain rooted in their Indian traditions, and the son who wants to live the wild American dream of rock-n-roll. And there you have it: a storm in a teacup.

Sureel (Aalok Mehta) has been living a double life as far as he can remember. Rebelling against his father's strict ground rules - no dating, no drinking, no smoking, no partying - Sureel, like the average confused desi plays in the cool-sounding band Fathead, parties like there is no tomorrow, has the token white sluttish girlfriend, and hates his mom's home cooked khichdi with ghee. Until he meets Maya (Sheetal Sheth), the talented Indian dancer who shows him that being Indian can be quite cool (is anyone else getting a strong déjà vu vibe?). Unlike Sureel, who has fooled his parents into believing he's a pre-med student, Maya is a dutiful Indian daughter pursuing her undergraduate degree in pharmacology. Will Sureel ever be able to convince his parents that he is a dedicated musician, with true talent and not a good for nothing "hippie"?

The problem with "American Chai" is that director and script-writer Anurag Mehta is too earnest in his portrayal of the cross-cultural clash, without adding anything that is refreshingly new (the mandatory Bollywood dance scene is a pale imitation of the hilarious dance sequence in "Bollywood Calling"). Except for the comic relief provided by Sureel's father (the veteran Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal), the rest of the cast show little chemistry. The characters are as flat as cardboard cutouts, the dialogues are hackneyed and the acting is amateur. The movie crawls at a snail's pace, exacerbated by the fact that the audience can anticipate every development in the plot. The music score is pleasant enough, but nothing extraordinary. This movie is certainly not a cutting chai.

This article was first published on 14 Jun 2003.