Movie Review: Chutney Popcorn- Nisha Ganatra

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There’s a thing or two that Hollywood could learn about in Nisha Ganatra’s comedy “Chutney Popcorn”. The story features an Indian-American lesbian who see it fit that she should have a baby for her older sister who is married and unfertile. The movie has serious and wisecracking innuendos littered all over that easily suggest natural tone.

It is popular for sitcoms to feature cheerful but turbulent relationships by the actors and this one hasn’t been spared. Reena, the movies stubborn and at the same time main character is a photographer and a body artist adept at creating intricate designs on her muses’ skin and showcases her handiwork in gigantic photographic portraits.

While Reena and her partner Lisa are monogamous, the possibility of Reena being pregnant isn’t so welcome to Lisa’s convictions. Reena’s straight laced mum, Meenu, views her lesbianism as a thorn in the flesh. Meenu is an Indian traditionalist who is condescending to Reena by referring to her sexuality as some sort of disability.

Meenu is keener on introducing prospective suitors to Reena rather than acknowledging her relationship with Lisa. The story begins with the marriage of Sarita (Reena’s sister) to Mitch who appears to be a likeable version of a man sensitive to the women’s movement. Sarita, however, doesn’t recover several months after her marriage upon the discovery that she’s infertile. She consequently sinks into a sense of failure and despondency.

Out of nowhere, Reena embarks on a one-woman mission and volunteers to carry Sarita’s child through articificial insemination before consulting her sister. Mitch has always wanted to be a dad and is excited about the plan much more than hos wife. Sarita’s enthusiasm still takes a nose dive when she discovers that her sister is not letting the subject go.

The plot seems easy to predict until Sarita changes her mind about wanting to have a baby and Reena declares that she’s ready to have the child without even thinking. The movie still stays in direction while portraying the resulting emotional rollercoaster. Lisa is taken aback by Reena’s decision and doesn’t understand how a child can have “two mummies” and has to sit down and re-evaluate the relationship she has with Reena. At the same time, Sarita who feels jealous about her sister and Mitch have to wake up to the possibility of having a childless marriage and the damage Sarita’s change of heart has caused.

Chutney popcorn rises to the occasion with the ability to know it’s characters well enough to give them space to develop events on their own. The movie is especially well-acted. Reena is the epitome of pillowy and warm sensuality that goes well with Lisa’s high-strung hauteur.

The most complex character in the movie belongs to Meenu. While any director could have instinctively portrayed Reena’s mother as homophobic or snobbish, her character relays the pained stature of a well-meaning parent struggling with her own sense of shame and prejudice.

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