WHERE’S THE PARTY YAAR? Director: Benny Mathews. Players: Kal Penn, Sunil Malhotra, Serena Varghese, Tina Cherian. 98 min. Rating: R. Theatrical release.
Even though Where’s the Party Yaar? from a Houston-based trio of filmmakers—writer-director Benny Mathews and co-writers Sunil Thakkar and Soham Mehta—treads no new ground cinematically, it nevertheless provides some uncontrollable mirth and jollity. The breezy comedy lampoons the everyday absurdities of desi life.
Populated by all the usual stereotypes, from the “fresh off the boat (FOB)” rube to the cool “American-born confused desi (ABCD),” a sensitive intellectual documentary maker, a seriously deranged astrologer, you name it, WTPY has it all!
The Indian-American identity narrative has been attempted on reel before with mixed success. ABCD, American Desi, American Chai, and to some extent Leela, which belonged to this sub-genre, all dealt with the pangs and joys of cultural assimilation. In WTPY, Hari Patel (Sunil Malhotra) is the FOB desi who lands up in Houston, suspenders, oil-soaked hair, et al, to attend college. He moves in with his uncle’s family, and his cool Americanized party-boy cousin Mohan a.k.a Mo Bakshi (Kal Penn) who attends the same college.
Mo is everything Hari is not. While Hari pursues a double major in engineering studies, Mo, shallow as a puddle, spends most of his time in the film trying to keep Hari from gate-crashing a campus rave. Hari and his clueless pals fumble about looking for dance partners and dance parties.
Redemption comes in the form of predictable transformations. Mohan, realizing the errors of his discordant attitudes—this change aided by his infatuation with Janvi Valia (Serena Varghese) and his admiration for his good-natured cousin—gets attuned to his real identity and comes to terms with desis and his own desi-ness. Director-writer Benny Mathews shows promise in this debut effort; his attempts at dismissing pointless strife over ethnic authenticity succeed to a fair extent.