A Delightful Film about Growing Up and Taking Chances
India Sweets And Spices In Theaters November 19th
Reviewed by Joy Parris: Written and Directed by Geeta Malik, India Sweets and Spices is a delightful, heartwarming coming-of-age film that will leave you with a hopeful heart and an appreciation for lessons of forgiveness and love. The story revolves around Alia Kapur(played by Sofia Ali), a carefree college student who returns home from break to her posh suburban home in Ruby Hill, New Jersey. The home is right out of a town and country magazine layout, with perfectly manicured lawns and superbly decorated by the best interior designer. With backyard swimming pools and luxury cars, it screams wealth and success. All ruled by her always perfectly dressed mother Shiela Kapur (played by Manisha Koirala) the consummate hostess who adheres to all the social rules as if one resides in Buckingham Palace.
Before Alia heads home she receives a call from Neha (played by Anita Kalathara)putting her on notice to be on her best behavior upon her arrival. It’s clear Alia is not the typical stereotypical Indian girl ready to follow cultural and familial standards.
On arrival, she is swept into the whirlwind of activities already planned out, and her rebellious nature bubbles to the surface. After a year at UCLA, she wants to relax and have fun while Mommie dearest has luncheons and parties all lined up. However, when Alia meets Varun (Rish Shah), the handsome son of the new owners of the local Indian grocery, she is immediately smitten and spontaneously invites him and his family to a dinner party that same night.
When the family arrives they are in awe of the home and its elegance. We immediately feel their discomfort from the looks of the other guests. It is clearly apparent in this setting that what you do, how you dress, and who you know is the benchmark of success. And it gets worse when Varun’s Mom Bhairavi Dutta(played by Deepti Gupta) recognizes her college friend Shiela. And Shiela seems to have suffered memory loss until Bhairavi begins to ask questions. It’s a classic scene that showcases what you hide from your past will find its way back to you.
From that impulsive dinner invitation act of Alia, the house that Shiela and her husband Ranjit built (played by Adil Hussain) begins to tumble down. And on that very same night, Alia and her childhood friend Rahul Singh(played by Ved Sapru) see her Dad and his Mom in a passionate embrace. What happens after that is Alia’s determination for answers about her mother’s past and reasons for her dad’s infidelity. There are such wonderful layers to the India Sweets and Spices that touch on women’s issues, class status, familial, and society’s expectations. And ultimately to ask the question of how we shape our lives to achieve happiness.
It’s wonderful to truly enjoy the growth of each character and most importantly cheering for their happiness. And this is what makes India Sweets and Spices a very special film.
Thus we experience the journey of a young woman who begins to question family loyalty, love, and self. But as she pushes for answers and finds more secrets is she really ready for the answers. I would love to tell you how the story ends but I think this film deserves your attention. So gather your friends or loved ones, grab some chai tea, maybe wine, and might as well grab some biscuits. Get comfy and enjoy India Sweets and Spices. On a side note, you might want to find the nearest Indian store in our area and try some of their delicious desserts.
Presented by Bleecker Street India Sweets And Spices In Theaters November 19th
Written & Directed by Geeta Malik
Cast Sophia Ali, Manisha Koirala, Adil Hussain, Rish Shah, Deepti Gupta, Ved Sapru, Anita Kalathara
By Writer/Director Geeta Malik
It’s an honor to share India Sweets and Spices with you. This is a story that began many years ago, when I was an awkward kid, being dragged around to a million Indian dinner parties with my parents and their friends. Everyone would spend the night bragging about how rich they were, how successful they were, and how amazing their children were, and it was so ridiculously over-the-top. It wasn’t until much later that I realized those gossipy, petty adults were just trying to cover up their secrets, their fears, their insecurities, their pasts. These parties were alienating for families like mine, who were struggling mightily to hide our massive dysfunction — and yet, they were also an indelible and often joyful part of my childhood. The sizzle of the food, the clinking of ice in scotch glasses, the stunning outfits, the sensory overload.
Many years later, visions of those parties dancing in my head, I wrote my first draft of what I thought would be a light, irreverent comedy — and promptly discovered I was pregnant. (Very appropriate for the start of a new project.) I continued writing, my newborn daughter napping, strapped to my chest. I’d steal moments to write scenes and dialogue before she woke up. Then, I had my second daughter 18 months later, and any semblance of free time vanished. I put the script back up on the shelf for several years.
When I took the script down again, the story had changed. My perspective had changed. What had started out as a mild satire was evolving into a coming-of-age comedy with a culturally subversive core. It begins as a story about a college freshman who just wants to be left alone over her summer break and becomes a story about the pieces of ourselves that can disappear when we’re just trying to survive. It’s the story of the complicated bond between mother and daughter, and the sacrifices that immigrant parents make for stability. Those struggles make up the crux of the film, set against the absurd, duplicitous world of these glittering dinner parties.
India Sweets and Spices was inspired by some of my favorite filmmakers (Mira Nair, Gurinder Chadha), countless Indian films, and my own relationship with my parents — and my kids. I feel very lucky that I got to make this film with a dream cast (including rising stars Sophia Ali and Rish Shah, and Bollywood superstars Manisha Koirala and Adil Hussain), a hard-working, inspired crew, and a dedicated, tireless team that pushed to make this film happen, took big swings and brought us here to this moment.
It’s been quite a journey! We finished shooting this film just before the pandemic, and we finished posting in masks and sitting at opposite ends of the mix stage. The world is still in turmoil, but there is hope, and this film is a celebration of that hope. It’s about courage, joy, and staying true to yourself even in the face of the most judgmental Aunties. (And they’re really judgmental. Trust me.)
I’m grateful to have been able to make this film, which is so near and dear to my heart, and grateful to be sending it out into the world.