SEEMA Teen Pick: “India Sweets and Spices”

spices
Image courtesy of Bleecker Street

“India Sweet & Spices,” a multigenerational dramedy, will prepare you for a normal Indian existence that begins and ends with tradition.

The film follows Alia Kumar, a UCLA student who spends the summer at her parents’ opulent and upper-class residence in New Jersey. It’s a community with majestic homes stacked on top of each other with impeccably kept gardens and terraces. Alia chafes at her mother Sheila’s strictness and classism in her parents’ magnificent house, and she appeals to her father Ranjit’s more laid-back character. Alia is stuck in a tangle of her parents’ expensive weekend parties that circle the neighborhood, yet she manages to stay afloat thanks to her sarcasm.

She ventures into a grocery shop one day and meets Varun, in traditional Bollywood style – her hair blown back and romantic music playing – she’s in love. Alia begins to uncover some bizarre facts about her family as she grows closer to the store’s owners.

The film is identical to any other coming-of-age story. Check for disagreements between parents and children. Check for daughters wanting to live apart from their parents. Marriage is regularly mentioned by Indian parents – check. Check for a tangled love interest. Check for strange and life-changing family secrets. Indians Sweets & Spices is the way to go if you’re looking for something that’s not too difficult but yet has a lot of energy and quick turns.

Geeta Malik skillfully crafts the plot while defying prejudices about Indians. The principal character Alia, played by Sophia Taylor Ali, has a sardonic and cheerful demeanor that is an encouragement to Indian girls who are restrained by their parents’ demands and society’s expectations. Who wants their Indian aunts to be constantly scrutinizing their every move? When you witness Alia’s mind-blowing showdown with the aunties, I’m sure you’ll spit out your tea.

“India Sweets and Spices” dives right in, then fights its way out for the remainder of its duration. Some of the plot twists are a tad excessive (a dinner party where the aggrieved party calls out everyone else on their hypocrisy and secret photos used as relationship blackmail). Some of the dialogue are unforgivably corny – “I’m not superficial, I watch documentaries!”, and some of the insights on Indian-American traditions are trite and uninformative.

The movie gets its special recognition with the casting of Manisha Koirala, one of the finest Indian actresses to grace the big screen. With every new movie, she is said to disappear into the character which makes her brilliant every single time. Earning rave reviews for her work, audiences are always eager to see what brilliance she will bring to the big screen and this newest film is a wonderful showcase of her skills.

The Indian vibrant colors are perfectly highlighted through the exuberant dresses and exaggerated decor. The grand and unique Indian culture can fit anywhere – even a classy street in New Jersey.

Even though the movie might not be particularly groundbreaking having its own sweets and spices, it still leaves an unexpectedly nourishing aftertaste.

Want to read more such stories? Check out Netflix Keeps it All in the Family