Written by: Manish Achraya & Anuvab Pal
Directed by: Manish Achraya
Starring: Shabana Azmi, Ajay Naidu, Ayesha Dharker, Michael Raimondi, Seema Rhamani
Released by: IndiePix Films
My Advice: Good performances, but not as funny as one would like.
Loins of Punjab Presents was released in 2007, directed and co-written by first-time director Manish Achraya, and is now out on DVD. This is a movie targeting the “multiplex audience.” (The term is used for a movie that appeals to a niche audience group and expects to recover its cost through a long run at the multiplex with limited shows. Basically it is not a mass movie, which releases in single screens and has huge number of shows in the multiplex thanks mainly to the actors involved, or due to the latest trend (such as the director involved with the project)). The movie is supposed to be a laugh riot, a parody on the reality show American Idol (which has its own version across countries, including Indian Idol in India). Does it deliver? Well, the movie is provocative and is slightly racist–the racism factor is used to get in few laughs, but overall the movie is strictly okay, thanks to good performances and few good moments which are really far and few in-between.
[ad#longpost]The story revolves around three days of a reality show, Desi Idol, being conducted by the Loins of Punjab (a top notch company selling pork loins) in New Jersey which targets the huge south Asian population there. The company hires an event manager, Mr. Bokade (well played by Jameel Khan), who is a playboy hoping to seduce one of the judges on the reality show. The participants include Preethi Patel (played by Ishitta Sharma) who is a child prodigy of a huge Patel family. The script tries pretty hard to take a dig at their way of life in the USA, although most of the scenes involving them give a sense of “been there, seen that before.” Then there is the story of Turbanotorious B.D.G, a sadar (played by Ajay Naidu) who wants to start his own bhangra rap band with his friend, an African-American, much to the displeasure of his traditional Punjabi family. His Bhagra-rap songs are both abusive and provocative. He intends to use this as a platform for his launch.
Next, the film has a Sania Rehman/Vikram Tejwani story (played by Seema Rahmani and the director himself respectively). It involves a wannabe Bollywood actress who does not understand Hindi and an accountant who is passionate about his work and is a Amitabh Bachahan fan. Their story brings in the necessary emotional touch to the film, especially in the climax. Then there is Mrs. Rita Kapoor (played by Shabana Azmi) as the scheming rich lady who intends to win the contest and donate the money so that she can out-do her husband who donated a huge sum to Widowed Women of Nagaland, trying to buy out all the remaining competitors. Then, there is the Josh Coen/Opama Menon story: the American and South Indian Couple who are deeply in love with one another because Josh is madly in love with India, its tradition and values, and Opama loves him for that. There are couple of good scenes involving them, and the racist angle gets highlighted here, with regard to the way the South Asian Community treats Josh. Finally, we have an aged American couple, who are not participants but happen to be staying the same place where the show is taking place. They are pretty phobic about South Asians, and view every conversation as a threat and those of a “terrorist.” How things unfold during the competition and who goes on to win it forms the remaining story.
Coming to the acting, everyone involved gives a great performance. Jameel Khan is apt as the playboy, but again has limited scope for what he can do. Special mention needs to be given to the performance of the director, who plays his role of an accountant with great ease and makes the character extremely believable and likeable. Seema, too, plays her role of wannabe actress with no knowledge of Hindi wonderfully. Ishitta Sharma does not have much to her character other than looking good (and she does well at that!). Everyone involved in playing the Patels (the huge joint family) play their parts quite well. There is one hilarious scene highlighting their “bargaining capability” at a strip club. Shabana is okay, but she’s surely given better performances. Ajay Naidu plays his role of a foul-mouthed, wannabe Bhangra Rap Star Sadar amazingly well. Michael and Ayesha too play their parts with great ease, and both of them share a great chemistry on screen.
If the movie were to be judged on basis of performances alone, then this would be a great movie with everyone playing their role perfectly. The director deserves full credit for it. The problem lies with the script, as the movie simply tries too hard to be funny. The dialogues could have been crisper. There are a couple of exceptional scenes which make you laugh, but they are too far spaced for a movie of this genre. Overall, this is a performance-oriented movie, but is only merely passable if the expectation is to see a good comedy movie.
The DVD set is a two-disc affair, with two audio commentaries: one with the writers and one with the director and critics. There’s also deleted scenes with commentary and more.