American Desi

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American Desi

Seldom has the term "groundbreaking" seemed as relative as it does when applied to American Desi, the debut feature of writer and director Piyush Dinker Pandya. The subject—the conflicts faced by a group of Indian-American college freshmen—might be new, but nearly every other aspect of the film is so well-worn that the edges of the frames ought to look torn and frayed. By the end, Pandya has run his characters through two plot-advancing montage sequences, a disastrous attempt at an opposite-sex-impressing home-cooked meal, a farcical drag scene, and a climactic school dance with an accompanying round of fisticuffs. The lack of a pie fight seems merely a matter of forgetfulness. Leading a cast whose members all appear well into their post-graduate careers, producer and star Deep Katdare plays a university-bound suburban "teen" who views college as a chance to leave all things Indian behind him. His plan hits a snag, however, when he finds himself thrown into a four-man dorm room with three other Indian-Americans. Pandya gives each a single defining character trait and an easily resolved subplot (except for one whose trait, a propensity to speak in hip-hop slang, seems to count as subplot enough.) Typical of Pandya's handling of the issues at hand, Katdare's slow embrace of his Indian heritage involves little more than his acquisition of a few dance steps and his increased appreciation of Hindi films. While veering recklessly between hackneyed drama and sitcom-level gag pandering, American Desi displays a willingness to recognize the issues faced by Indian-American college students, but virtually no ability or desire to engage them, except superficially. Its attempts to hold a mirror to Indian-American college life come with a happy face already painted on.