There is no way for me to objectively review American Desi, so I thought I'd just write about my relationship to the production, and hope that I convince at least a couple of you to go check it out in a theater near you.
First off, I am friends with the writer/director Piyush Dinker Pandya, which is how I got involved in the project to begin with. For me it all started back in the spring of 1998, during my second year of law school. Everyone else I knew was doing the smart thing, which was to get a law job for the summer. I got lucky (depending on if you talk to me or my parents) because it was around that time that Piyush sent me the script for American Desi (originally called American Born Confused Desi or ABCD). I had gone to college with his brother Gitesh (who is a Producer on the movie) and Piyush knew I was a big movie fan and had done some work on films in New York a few years earlier. He told me that he and a friend of his named Deep Katdare (Executive Producer and star of the movie, and another person I knew through Gitesh), were putting together this project, and he asked if I wanted to join. I read the script and realized that it was basically the story of my life, and I immediately said I'd love to help out. So in the summer of 1998, I moved into Piyush's apartment and started work.
That summer was spent re-working the script, putting together a budget, trying to lock down locations, and getting investors. Sometimes it felt as if we really weren't getting anywhere. The original plan was to start pre-production in the spring, and start shooting in the fall. Little did we know that filming wouldn't actually start for another full year. Sadly at the end of the summer, I had to head back to law school, and got removed from the loop. I didn't have any connection with the project except a few random emails every so often.
Filming eventually started in July of 1999. I came on board later that summer. By the time I came on board, everyone had gotten to know each other pretty well, and all the jobs were taken, so I basically just helped out wherever I could. The best part was that I could sit on set and watch everything that went on. I learned so much about filmmaking just by watching what other people were doing. We had a small crew since we were on a tight budget, so there were a small amount of people doing a lot of work. Working 18 hour days wasn't anything special, it was just the norm. One night I remember filming from the middle of the afternoon until almost 6AM. I had time to drive back to CT, pick up my grandparents, drive them to the airport in NJ, head back to set, and still be around for 8 hours worth of filming. Although it was tiring, I don't think anyone of us would ever not do it again, just for the experience we all got.
Filming ended in September of 1999. The movie is just being released now, so you can see how long the whole process takes. 18 months to edit the film, edit sound, clear rights, re-shoot, loop dialogue, and do all sorts of other things to get this film ready for release. I know for Deep, Gitesh and Piyush, March 16th is going to be a day of great relief. These guys put their heart and soul into this movie, and I applaud them for it. But it's not like the work is over. There is still the idea of putting it into more theaters afterwards. International release. Maybe even a soundtrack album. And then, maybe even start working on the next film, which I hope to have a much larger role in.
So there is a brief history on American Desi. Oh wait, what is the movie about? I'll try and tell you in my own words. The movie is about someone a lot like me, an ABCD. An ABCD, to the best of my limited knowledge, is someone born in America to Indian parents. Someone who grows up as an American, and doesn't care, or care to learn about his/her heritage. Krishnagopal Reddy (Deep Katdare) is an ABCD. Finally, after years of living at home, having to go to Indian festivals, doing strange religious ceremonies, Kris is leaving for college, and a chance to live a normal, American life. But when he gets to college, he finds he's been placed with three Indian roommates. Jagjit (Ronobir Lahiri), Salim (Rizwan Manji) and Ajay (Kal Penn), all three representing three different aspects of Indian culture. Jagjit is a Sikh who wants to be an artist, but his domineering father wants him to go into engineering. Salim is a Muslim who believes that all Indian women raised in America become corrupt. He's all set to get a degree, then have his parents arrange his marriage, until he meets Farah (Sunita Param). Ajay is a Hindu homeboy. Kris at first can't stand his roommates, but when he falls for the beautiful Nina (Purva Bedi), he bonds with his roommates in order to try and win her over. At the same time, Kris is going to have to go head to head for Nina's affection against the slimy Rakesh (Anil Kumar). But in order to win Nina's heart, Kris is going to have to do the one thing he has resisted all his life: learn about his culture.
American Desi is a very funny movie with a great soundtrack and some wonderful new actors. And I'm not just saying that. Head over to the offical website at AmericanDesiMovie.com and see for yourself. The website has reviews, theater listings, exclusive behind the scenes pictures, a screensaver and much more. And if/when you go see it, drop me a line and let me know what you think. Enjoy!
© 2001 Wolfpack Productions