New film India Sweets and Spices is a delightful film that celebrates a young woman’s coming of age. It’s set against a lovingly framed glimpse of life in an Indian American family. I found it to be a fascinating look into family, friendship, romance and culture.
When a young woman returns home from her freshman year in college at UCLA , she discovers family secrets and is shocked to learn of her mother’s progressive past, as she navigates the gossip, drama and romance of her wealthy American Indian community. It’s a warm and funny film, filled with strong feminist and family values. It is sure to enchant audiences.
We first meet Alia Kapur ( Sophia Ali ) in her freshman year. She’s studying , partying and enjoying her all American life with a wide circle friends. She is an independent and modern young woman.
This is in contrast to her strict family life in the affluent New Jersey suburb, Ruby Hill, where she lives with her strict and uptight mother, golf mad, heart surgeon father and younger siblings. When she arrives home for the Summer her life is ruled by family parties and keeping up appearances. It is expected that she will marry a childhood friend.
Befriending Varun ( Rish Shah), the handsome son of the new owners of the local Indian grocery, she invites his family to a weekly dinner gathering with her parent’s wealthy friends. She is shocked to learn that her perfectionist mother, Sheila ( Manisha Koirala) has a previous connection to Bhairavi ( Deepti Gupta). Her surprise turns to shock and indignation, as she uncovers secrets about both her parents, that push her towards a daring and transformative confrontation.
Scriptwriter Geeta Malik is the daughter of Indian parents who grew up in Aurora, Colorado, where I coincidentally lived for three years in the 1990’s. She was part of her local close knit Indian community, so has a unique perspective which celebrates the multifaceted culture from which she came. Indian Sweets and Spices is her second feature film.
Bollywood great, Manisha Koirala, brings the star power in her austere turn as Alia’s mother, Sheila. Despite making over 80 films, this is her first English language role. She commands respect and is a strong and dynamic character. She is joined by another film veteran, Adil Hussain, as her husband Rajit. He is affable and beloved but has the air of a man of his generation with all the privilege this affords him. Deepti Gupta (Bhairavi Dutta) plays her role of Varun’s Mum and Sheila’s old friend with sensitivity and humility. You can really empathise with her character when she shows up to a lavish party with homemade wares in a Tupperware container. It’s worth watching for the acting from these veterans of screen alone.
Sophia Ali , who you may have seen on Grey’s Anatomy, is a talent to watch. She gives an incredible performance which lights up the screen. She is so credible in the lead role of sassy and independent Alia. She displays equal parts strength and vulnerability in this pivotal role as the daughter caught between generations and cultures.
Newcomers Rish Shah (Varun Dutta) and Ved Sapru (Rahul) are both British and relished the chance to work with such seasoned names.Their characters are the perfect foils for each other, with Rish playing the less affluent student Varun and Ved playing the preppy and confident family friend, Rahul. Both are vying for Alia’s attention.
It is a joy to watch movies being made by women, about different types of women and their many layered lives. Some of the most poignant moments of the film were the interactions between mother and daughter. I learned much about the ongoing women’s movement in India and the lengths some women need to go to just to be heard. This mouthwatering taste of an Indian American lifestyle filled with fun, romance and family ties can be seen in select Palace and Hoyts cinemas from February 3rd. Treat yourself to a slice of this sweet and spicy offering.
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).