When I was approached by Gitesh Pandya to review Four Samosas by British born Indian actor Ravi Kapoor, I was delighted in more ways than one. The movie was screened at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. It sounded mouth wateringly appetizing, with the promise of something unexpected.
Being an Indian, like the cast of Four Samosas, I have a penchant for Indian snacks. My favorite appetizers are dahi papdi chaat and piping hot pakoras but both are not easy to procure, so samosas have become a staple anytime snack. In fact, not only do I buy four samosas for myself, I make it a habit to bring them to my appreciative Indian and American friends. No one refuses samosas.
If you have seen the trailer and liked it, I promise you the movie is absolutely authentic and worth the watch. Cast in small-town Artesia, California, it is a slice of life of immigrant families trying to recreate a life of their own away from India.
The film is charming and zany. Even though it will appeal more to the Indian diaspora because of ethnic references, it has an undeniable universal appeal. It is a human-interest story. It’s flawed, but it’s hopeful and honest. The ordinary characters are truly committed to their “extraordinary” roles. It is so real that it could easily be you, me or the uncle down the street.
It’s the director’s honest, yet imaginative, take on a common theme without stereotyping that makes Four Samosas funny! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not rib-tickling hilarious like a Shakespearean comedy. It is funny because it is a quixotic satire in human nature. It reminded me a bit of Keeping up Appearances.
As the story goes, Vinny (Venk Potula) the protagonist, is an American-born Indian kid raised by a single mother. His dad, played by Ravi Kapoor, has left the domestic order to become a priest “because he cares about all living things.”
Vinny is likable with a strong chin, Elvis Presly pompadour-hair, and a desire to become a rapper. He has good lyrics but lacks confidence. He is thwarted by his failed relationship with Rina, (Summer Bishil), an aesthetician who grooms eyebrows.
While Vinny half-heartedly sells Banarasi sarees to Indian couples, and eats chaat with his friend Zak (Nirvan Patnaik), who is addicted to watching old Bollywood movies, the story has a twist.
Twist In The Tale
Mr. Juneja (Tony Mirchandani),Rina’s father, fixes her engagement with Sanjay (Karan Soni) from Ludhiana. This launches Vinny into hyper-drive and he comes up with a plan to ruin the wedding by stealing diamonds stored in an old mango pickle jar in Mr. Juneja’s safe. He assembles a motley but eager crew of “small town thugs” who agree to conduct a “diamond heist” at Mr. Juneja’s grocery store. Like Ocean’s Eleven.
Enter Anjali (Sharmita Bhattacharya), an ambitious investigative reporterat the world’s smallest local paper “Little India.” Not only is Anjali overzealous about everything, her disguises are also exceptional!
But the character I resonated the most with is a frustrated IIT engineer Paru (Sonal Shah) who needs miscellaneous carbohydrate rich snacks to focus. She reminded me of many kids at the IIT coaching classes in Mumbai.
There are other characters who don’t talk but gesture with their eyes and necks like a Kathakali dancer. Others who recite Sanskrit shlokas that no one understands. Vinny’s mother surrenders herself to the sole obsession of sewing costumes for the Histrionic society in her garage full of cardboard boxes.
I must admit that the Indian grocery store “Junejas” is a fine establishment. Our grocery stores are an important part of our lives and often grocery store owners are a prominent part of our community. The first thing we all do when we move to a new town is to check out the Indian grocery store. Our town in Alabama has only one store. Very quaint, but oddly satisfying. Piled with Indian paraphernalia to make our hearts sing.
To me, Juneja’s in a small town in southern California looked pretty well organized compared to our store. Although the strip mall where it was located with a Chaat house and a “threading” beauty salon looked familiar.
Going to an Indian store was a family outing when children were growing up. They were excited to recognize certain snacks (Maganlal chikki), pani puri, mango lassi. These days, I go to buy fresh vegetables and fresh chapatis, but I always order samosas. We don’t have a chaat house in our town but our grocery store makes the best samosas; the crust is crispy. The filling is delectable with fried peas, potatoes, amchur, ginger, and green chilies. But I digress…
Regardless to say the four actors dressed in matching outfits, and collective desperation to win are endearing! Writer-director Ravi Kapoor plays fast and slow to keep this low-budget film interesting. The comical, long-drawn-out attempt to break open the safe with every imaginable tool known to mankind. Dashes in questionable ethnic disguises.
Throw in some curveball character work from Shah as the emotionally unhinged Paru, and Four Samosas promises to be something which stays with audiences long after those end credits. I will definitely watch Ravi Kapoor’s other films.
The ensemble cast in Four Samosas has chemistry and charisma. They play off one another really well without overacting. The dialogue is short and functional, but sometimes deliberately long-winded. Their energy reminded me a bit of the film Andaz Apna Apna that I have watched many times.
I hope Potula, Bhattacharya, Shah and Patnaik will show up again in another misadventure.
Don’t forget to watch Four Samosas. Playing in theaters near you and on VOD December 2nd, 2022.