American Chai, a heady brew
WINNER of the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at the Slamdance and GenArt Film Festivals, American Chai, deals with a crossover theme. The film, named after the milky tea, chai, an Indian brew, spotlights Sureel—-a first generation Indian—American collegian who can’t assert his professional and personal choices on his tradition-clinging parents.
Starring Aalok Mehta (a versatile musician), Paresh Rawal, Sheetal Sheth (of Indian Cowboy fame), Aasif Mandvi, (of The Mystic Masseur fame), the film has been written and directed by Anurag Mehta and produced by Taylor MacCrae. New Jersey-based Mehta describes his directorial debut as ‘a funny, heartfelt, coming-of-age story.’
The film focuses on Sureel
(Aalok Mehta), a college student born in an Indian family bred in
America. He is unable to reveal to his conservative parents (played by
actors Paresh Rawal and Bharati Desai) that his professional interests
lie in music and not in medicine.
On his multiple award-winning film, Anurag Mehta says, ‘It is a love story. It is a story about following your dreams ... about the relationship between the newer and the older generations, and ultimately it is the story of a father and son.’ On selecting his real-life musician-brother for the protagonist’s role, Mehta says, ‘Aalok has been a musician, a performer at heart, so he seemed apt for the role.’
Incidentally, Aalok has also written and enacted the songs in the film and contributed to the score along with Jack Bowden Faulkner
About Paresh Rawal, who plays the authoritative parent, Mehta says, ‘He adds weight to so many of the scenes. He is a brilliant actor, and his energy permeates and rubs off on the rest of the team.’
Celebrating the melting pot
The high points of the movie are the cultural differences. Mehta makes satirical jabs at Bollywood musicals to put across his point good-humouredly.
A critic has summed up the
film in the following words, ‘Humorous and heartfelt, this winning
debut feature not only extols the old fashioned American dream, but
celebrates the virtues of the great American melting pot as well.’