Film and TV

Fitting In

It's easy to see why this comedy-drama about a thoroughly assimilated Indian-American college student at loggerheads with his tradition-minded father has been such a big hit on the indie film festival circuit. Written and directed by Anurag Mehta and starring his brother Aalok, American Chai doesn't have anything especially new to say about parent-child conflicts. We can see where this story is headed as soon as we learn that our hero is hiding his music studies from a father who thinks he's pre-med and is obsessed with having a doctor for a son. Though the climactic revelation and resolution is expected, the film is full of fresh and unexpected observations about the cross-culturally complex lives of second-generation Indians living in the United States. "Fitting in" is difficult for any minority, but it has a very special flavor when you're neither African-American nor Native American--but often confused for both. As an added bonus, the film includes some delightful parodies of India's Bollywood musical numbers, satirizing and celebrating the form at the same time.
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David Ehrenstein