The film is the product of a medical doctor, Hassan Zee, whose current operating room is a movie theater where an intriguing mix of matchmakers, bhangra dancers, psychic healers, and religious fanatics all unite for your viewing pleasure. Who needs popcorn with a story like this?
With Bicycle Bride, Zee tastefully addresses one of the most important issues in contemporary Muslim culture; women’s rights, including veils. The veil/burka look is causing tremendous controversy in several European countries, such as Belgium, where they were recently banned in public, and France which is considering a similar ban. The film’s protagonist, Beena (played by Melanie Kannokada, Miss India America), has a wardrobe that falls somewhere in between the two extremes, but it is a challenge she deals with throughout Bicycle Bride.
Zee’s film is personal. He says, “I have four sisters, three of whom are currently married. When an Indian or Pakistani girl turns 20, the mother ‘has a burden on her head’ to find a match for her daughter. My sisters are smart and pretty, but my mother had quite a challenging time finding husbands for them,” he says. “We saw different families coming into our house, visiting my sisters. and putting them out like trophies at an auction. I wanted to make a film about this.”
Shot in San Francisco, Zee says this choice was also personal. “I’ve lived in San Francisco for 12 years. Many folks from various parts of the world call San Francisco Bay Area home even though they still cling to traditional values and cultural heritages that have prevented full integration,” he says. “There is a large Bay Area Muslim population. Arranged marriages continue to this day, even in San Francisco.”
The director says he was careful in chosing an actress to play Beena who came from a similar background, because he wanted her to identify with the character. Therefore, Zee says he looked for actresses who were American born, and found Kannokada.
Bollywood comes to Hollywood in Bicycle Bride. It has brains, beauty, meddling parents, and an entertaining story.
A ticket to Bicycle Bride is the perfect prescription for those who want to see true Indian beauty on the big screen. In addition to Kannokada, the film includes local actors Shruti Tewari, Rajiv Nema, Ranjita Chakravarty, and Vijay Rajvaidya.
A film party and a women’s bike ride will be held to promote the film’s release in the South Bay. The ride will begin at San Jose City Hall, and ride through Willow Glen, Campbell, and Santa Row.
Film opens Friday, July, 23. Reliance Big Theatres, Fremont and San Jose. $10.
Saturday, July 24: Bike ride, 4-6 p.m.; party to follow. www.bicyclebride.com.