Brown is the New Black


Title: Loins of Punjab Presents

By: Manish Acharya

I’m coming to the party late—last weekend, for the first but not the last time, I watched Manish Acharya’s comedy, Loins of Punjab Presents. Behan____, what a film!

I will not rehearse the synopsis or plot, partly because of the lateness of the hour, but also because it is available here. Instead, let me note quickly that the comedy keeps ticking, and the attention to detail in all matters, from the plot to the casting, makes this film a pleasure to watch.

Let me use one scene to make a point about where the film is coming from. Ishitta Sharma, playing a demure, Gujju girl called Preeti Patel, is one of the competitors in the Desi Idol competition in New Jersey. We have watched her sing beautifully, and we have watched her stay silent, eyes downcast, as her family-members make fools of themselves. But there’s a moment later in the film, when an older, wily competitor, played with classy ease by Shabana Azmi, tries to manipulate her. And suddenly, in the blink of an eye, Preeti Patel turns upon the Shabana character. It’s as if she always had a dagger hiding in her hand.

When I saw that, I thought that there was a similar strength in the movie I was watching. It’s all laughs but it has a quicksilver intelligence within. It is a declaration of independence by the desi diaspora—and what is great is that it celebrates this freedom by mocking, and loving, almost everything in sight.