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Presenting an amusing introduction to all things desi

Presenting an amusing introduction to all things desi
April 19, 2010
By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor

All winners are in this week's DVD review column.

The Young Victoria

Part history lesson, part romance, "The Young Victoria" is a movie that surprised me for just how engaging it turned out to be.
Emily Blunt is excellent as the young woman who spends her childhood being sheltered and groomed for her eventual role as queen. She understands that her ascension to the throne will eventually give her the freedom she craves.
Being queen, though, also gives her responsibility and obligations beyond what she imagined and subjects her to nasty political fights.
What she needs is an ally and she finds a loving one in Albert, a German prince who has been coached to try to win her heart. Albert, too, understands the game in which he is part and falls in love with Victoria the woman rather than the chess piece.
Lavishly produced, "The Young Victoria" always keeps the pomp and circumstance in its place and focuses on the lives of Victoria and Albert. Blunt leads a cast of standouts including Rupert Friend as the steady Albert.
The film's screenplay presents the story in as way that includes a lot of details and yet keeps the film moving. Although there are some invented moments Albert was never shot by a would-be assassin -- the film is apparently quite historically accurate.
The DVD has the usual making-of features and includes a look at the real Victoria with excerpts from her diaries that certainly depict a very different woman from the stern-faced dowager most people picture.
It's an adult film in the best possible sense and one that should be on your rental list.

Loins of Punjab Presents

I had never heard of the term "desi" before I watched this cute comedy about an Indian-American singing contest, "Desi Idol." "Desi" is a term indicating that someone or something is from India.
Co-writer, director and cast member Manish Acharya presents a story about an Indian-American pork company, the Loins of Punjab -- teaming up with a somewhat sleazy promoter to stage a publicity event, an "American Idol" style contest.
"Desi Idol" attracts Indian-Americans from all walks of life and with a wide range of singing styles. Shabana Azmi plays the affluent Mrs. Kapoor who wants to win the prize of $25,000 in order to donate it to charity as a way to one-up a rival and will stop at nothing to reach her goal. Turbanotorious (Ajay Naidu) hopes to get recognition for his Indian-American hip-hop. Teenager Preeti Patel (Darshan Jariwala) hopes to win to avoid the plans her father has made for her.
There are also an American kid (Michael Raimondi) who is in love with India -- and an Indian-American woman -- who wants to compete and a character played by Acharya -- a lonely professional whose job just got outsourced to India.
As the competition looms, the contestants fall by the side, leaving a group all determined to win.
I really liked this film because it portrayed something about a group of Americans rarely seen in mainstream popular culture. It is not a big laugh-out loud comedy, but one that has you smiling throughout its running time. It also effectively deals with issues of ethnic identity.
Acharya is a smart director and my only criticism is there is some of the dialogue I couldn't understand due to the accent. However, the complaint is a minor one as "Loins of Punjab Presents" is a pretty accomplished first feature for its director.
If you're tired of the standard comedies Hollywood studios have been churning out -- there's not one flatulence gag in the whole film check out this film.


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