Movie on First Generation Indians featured in London Festival  

By: GLORIA SUHASINI
Source: News-India-Times; Nov. 3, 1999

ABCD -- not to be confused with the film by Piyush Pandya that featured in the International Independent Film Market recently -- is yet another full-length feature film made on Indian-Americans. There is a slight variation in this film, though. Unlike the other films where the storyline is based on second generation Indians, this film focuses on first generation Indian-American immigrant children. This film was screened on two occasions at the London Film Festival, Nov. 03 to 18.

"The film has been chosen for screening at the international film festival in London on November sixth and also on eighth," Krutin Patel direcor of this ABCD told News India-Times days before leaving for the festival. It will feature in the a pannel discussion on minority films, and a tour (between Nov. 18 and Dec. 03) of 10 cities in the United Kingdom as a part of the festival.

The film is about Raj and Nina, first generation Indian immigrant children who grew up in the United States, and their widowed mother, Anju, who is desperately trying in her old age to reconcile her long ago decision to immigrate to the US. "The story revolves around characters who are culturally lost since they can no longer fully adhere to the customs of the country they have left behind, and yet do not belong to the mainstream American culture because of their ethnicity," Patel said describing the theme. On another level, the story also explores what happens to people in America who are neither white or black Americans but who fall in between. Indians represent the most recent wave of immigrants. Like the Irish, Italians, Chinese and Japanese immigrants before them, the Indian community is struggling to find balance. Like any minority, the community is struggling to find a voice, the film discloses.

Nina is a beautiful, bright tough and promiscuous young woman. She is still rebelling against the conservative Hindu values of her mother. But her attitude changes when she is forced to meet Ashok, a childhood friend from India who has recently moved to the US. The role of Nina has been played by 22-year-old Sheetal, who graduated from New York University in film acting in 1997. When asked in what way she would identify with the character, the young actress said, "I grew up as first generation Indian-American, and inevitably dealt with and will always deal with issues of identity, family, career, relationship, etc. And I don't think I carry in my heart the deep hurt that Nina keeps within her which drives her to rash actions, But I can certainly understand her dilemmas and tortures."

Raj, brother of Nina is done by Faran Tahir, who was born in America, went with his parents to live there till he was 17 and returned to the states as a teenager. He has worked in several films, theater and television, including Jungle Book, New York Undercover, The Pretender and New York News. In ABCD, he takes on the roll of a youth who has bottled up emotions. In his attempts to protect others' feelings take a heavy toll on him. His inability to express himself honestly and his impulse to escape difficult situations are part of his character.

Madhur Jaffery plays the role of the mother of Nina and Raj. She characterizes a typical Indian mother, who is traditional but not fearful of indignities America throws. Aasif Mandvi, a familiar face in American theater has also acted in this 105-minute long movie. He takes the part of Ashok, a childhood friend of Nina, who has immigrated to the US recently. He offers the confused young woman emotional intimacy that she has never felt before. "In bringing ABCD to the screen, I had two intentions -- to tell the story of the Indian immigrant experience, and to highlight the talents of Indian artist in front and behind the camera," director Patel. He has also co-written and co-produced the film.

Patel graduated at New York University with a dual major in film and finance. He then worked in Europe producing country by country profiles of 13 nations. He has also worked as a technical director and segment producer for Bombay Broadcasting Network which produced a weekly program that was broadcast in the United States. His recent works have been for cable networks such as, A&E, History Channel and Food Network.