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TOUCH OF PINK. Director: Ian Iqbal Rashid. Players: Jimi Mistry, Kyle MacLachlan, Sue Mathew, Kristen Holden-Reid. Theatrical release (Paramount Classics). English and Kuttchi.
The desi experience in Africa has seldom been explored on film. Mississippi Masala opened a new chapter about India-rooted families from Uganda. Now Touch of Pink adds a new coating to that same book. Dar-es-Salaam-born, London-based filmmaker Rashid’s comedy delights in its African connection and Indian roots even as it mends cross-cultural and cross-sexual fences.
Set mostly in London on the fringes of the vibrant Ismaili community, Pink serves up a unique blending and clashing of cultures—both Indian-on-Western as well straight-on-gay. Alim (Mistry), a photographer aesthete carrying on with his boy-next-door British boyfriend Giles (Holden-Reid) goes to pieces in anticipation of the arrival of his unsuspecting mother Nuru (Mathew). Momsy, unbeknownst to Alim, is coming to London to arrange his hetero nuptials.
Rashid’s funny script gets decent mileage from the mom-does-not-know-son-is-gay set-up. Underneath the double-entendres and everyone in Nuru’s circle of acquaintances trying to guess exactly which rich babe Alim is going to marry, there is a poignant sense of longing both mother and son quietly attempt bridging. Nuru’s sense of self, already weighed down by extended widowhood, is nicely contrasted against her son second-guessing his own every move.
Alim’s constant tug with his inner child is superbly stage-crafted by Alim inventing in his mind an invisible friend only he can see. Alim’s alter ego Cary Grant (MacLachlan) is a dapper, self-deprecating middle-aged dandy who in a different setting would come across as a silver-haired sugar daddy. Wickedly played by MacLachlan (in his best deadpan delivery since the hit television series Twin Peaks), it’s the witty exchanges between Alim and Cary (who affectionately refers to his protégé as “my little samosa”) that accentuate Touch of Pink.
Alim’s gay desi identity—a near-schizophrenic balance act between modern London gay proprieties, preposterously rich Kenya-born relatives, and stolen same-sex lip-locks—is aptly played by Mistry (The Guru) in a sharp role that will resonate with anyone burdened with lifelong secrets. Other accoutrements that Touch of Pink throws in are the vibrant colors of an Ismaili wedding and a colorful lingo that uses British English spiced with some Kutcchi.
The picture that Pink paints is one of delightfully subtle, methodical chaos. Lies unfold, hypocrisies unravel, and secrets are laid bare, all under the watchful eye of a filmmaker with a keen sense of geo-ethnography and contemporary gay flavoring. Even the colorful soundtrack is an eclectic mix of Tschaikovsky, Susheela Raman, and Mangeshkar. All these are true ingredients for cinematic ambrosia.