American Chai

Released not long after Piyush Dinker Pandya's AMERICAN DESI and Krutin Patel's ABCD, this enormously likable first feature from writer-director Anurag Mehta treads similar ground: A first-generation Indian American, or "Desi," finds himself caught in a tug-of-war between the intractable traditionalism of his parents and the relative freedoms of American...read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

  • Watch on
Reviewed by Ken Fox
Rating:

Released not long after Piyush Dinker Pandya's AMERICAN DESI and Krutin Patel's ABCD, this enormously likable first feature from writer-director Anurag Mehta treads similar ground: A first-generation Indian American, or "Desi," finds himself caught in a tug-of-war between the intractable traditionalism of his parents and the relative freedoms of American youth culture. College junior Sureel (Aalok Mehta) thinks he's found a way out of that bind: He simply lies to his parents about what he's doing with his life. While his ultra-traditional father (the excellent Paresh Rawal) and somewhat more understanding mother (Bharti Desai) think their dear son is a pre-med student at the local university (the film is set in suburban New Jersey, the heart of a vibrant, rapidly expanding Indian-American community), Sureel is actually studying to become a musician — a career his father considers a "fool's pursuit" for any Indian man in America — and secretly plays in the pop/rap group Fathead. Sureel is also dating a white girl (Jamie Hurley), but she dumps him the minute the other Fatheads kick him out of the band for chronic lateness. Soon after, Sureel meets the lovely, fellow-Desi Maya (Sheetal Sheth), who's also determined to pursue a career in the arts (Maya's a dancer who puts a uniquely Western spin on traditional Indian moves) rather than science or engineering. At this point, the irony of the situation becomes clear: The further Sureel tries to get from the life his parents have lined up for him — a life that includes an arranged marriage to a nice Indian girl — the closer he comes to a fertile middle ground between his two worlds, a cultural fusion symbolized by the combination of Eastern and Western sounds that Sureel's new band, American Chai, have achieved in their music. It's also at this point that the plot begins to sag, and Mehta resorts to a painfully clichéd romantic-comedy complication and some lengthy musical numbers to round out the running time. Still, the film has so much to say about the Desi predicament, and his clarion call to young Indian-Americans to explore their rich cultural heritage and consider becoming artists instead of engineers, computer programmers and doctors is heartfelt. Mehta says it all so articulately and with such good humor that the rest is easily forgiven.

Coming Soon

Because it's never too early to plan Thursday night... two months from now.

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Released not long after Piyush Dinker Pandya's AMERICAN DESI and Krutin Patel's ABCD, this enormously likable first feature from writer-director Anurag Mehta treads similar ground: A first-generation Indian American, or "Desi," finds himself caught in a tu… (more)

Show More »