A spoonful of desi

15th annual beyond bollywood: the south Asian film festival
; Saturday-Monday, Oct. 3-5
;Enzian Theater
; www.enzian.org

; $10-$35


The last 12 months have seen so much Slumdog Millionaire fascination that the pseudo-Bollywood fairy tale has infiltrated culture to the point that the fate of the kid actors from the film has "Potential International Incident" written on every twist and turn of their lives. So don't be surprised to see many newly obsessed faces in the crowd at the 15th installment of Enzian Theater and the Asian Cultural Association's South Asian Film Festival. Luckily for them, hot-button issues stay mostly on the sidelines, making way for perkier fare in the form of youthful fables and inspiring antics. Jai ho.


Kavi (3 Stars) USC filmmaker Gregg Helvey's short film takes on modern slavery in India. Shot on location, the film centers around Kavi, the "fastest working" slave in a particular camp, who longs to play cricket like the rich boys at a school he'll never attend. That longing is forgotten by the film quickly, however, as the focus shifts to rescue efforts by do-gooder human rights workers. Although the imagery and performances are solid, Kavi meanders too much to equal a totally successful short. — JS


Little Zizou (4 Stars) If there can be any complaint about screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala's (The Namesake) directorial debut, it's that it suffers from an overgrowth of ideas. From the micro-community of Parsis living in India, Taraporevala explores love stories, the demise of a newspaperman (played by Bollywood star Boman Irani in a spectacular, nuanced performance) ordered by a comically over-the-top cult leader, the European-obsessed middle class of Mumbai and a parrot learning to speak like Inspector Clouseau. — JS


Loins of Punjab Presents … (3 Stars) Peppered with in-jokes – most at the expense of the very community packing these festivals, South Asians making their homes in the U.S. – this film's audience is limited. The conceit: Loins of Punjab is a desi-founded pork loin company in New Jersey that hits upon the idea of a singing competition for South Asians as a promotional vehicle. Thus, we find stereotypes doing their best Bollywood in a New Jersey hotel. Director Manish Acharya has plenty of fun with those stereotypes, skewering them as deftly as a pork shank being prepped for a kebab. There's a low-budget vibe to Loins and some of Acharya's actors are clearly amateur, but buoyant performances by the likes of Jameel Khan, as the event's super-slick promoter, help elevate the entire affair. — JF


Supermen of Malegaon (5 Stars) This documentary about a video-store owner in the industrial city of Malegaon and his Be Kind Rewind–like hobby of remaking Hollywood films as comedic parodies for local Muslims – he's deemed the operation "Mollywood" – may have a hard time being taken seriously. When the wannabe director takes on Superman, the sheer scope of the endeavor introduces the hard-working community to every Hollywood stereotype imaginable: The actress who believes her work could bring about social change; the writer who can't understand why his vision didn't end up in the film. Yet for all their humorous distractions, this crew embodies everything wonderful about no-budget filmmaking. — JS


Tahaan (3 Stars) Auteur Santosh Sivan's fairy tale of a precocious boy (yep, that trope again), whose quest to be reunited with his donkey takes him through border quarrels and terrorism plots in a Forrest Gump kind of way, is beautifully shot but possessed of a slippery narrative. As the boy's grandfather, the esteemed Victor Banerjee relishes his role, and his scenes promise a more meaty film than Tahaan can deliver. Once on the road, Purav Bhandare, as the boy, has trouble conveying Tahaan's life-altering arc which culminates in a powerful sequence of events in spite of its shaky center. — JS

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