Film review: UNINDIAN, from ‘Built For Speed’

There have been some bizarre casting choices in movies over the years, John Wayne as Mongol Warlord Genghis Khan in The Conqueror or Marlon Brando as a Japanese man in Tea House of the August Moon. It is unlikely, though, that we will ever see anything as jaw-droppingly weird as the casting of former Watergate burglar and FBI spook, G. Gordon Liddy in teen summer camp movie Camp Cucamonga. Not far behind, though, is the casting of former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee as a romantic lead in the new Australian-Indian co-production UnIndian.

Lee plays what else but a knockabout Aussie bloke (Will) who even teaches a course in Aussie-speak at (UNSW no less) to recently arrived migrants who want to fit in better with the average Aussie yob. He a not looking for a relationship but when he meets the stunning Meera (Tannishtha Chatterjee) he’s instantly smitten. His attempts to woo this articulate professional woman, however, have all the subtlety of an Aussie cricketer sledging an Indian batsman on a 40 degree day at the WACA. With Meera’s very stereotyped parents (Supriya Pathak and Akash Khurana) desperate for her to meet a well-to-do Indian man, the idea of a relationship with Will is frowned upon. To make matters worse Meera’s ex-husband Deepak (Gulshan Grover) is trying to finagle his way back into Meera and her daughter Smitha’s life.  Given the film’s subject matter and the fact that it has been directed by an Indian, Anupam Sharma, some people may have been led to believe that this is a Bollywood film. While there are a few scattered references to Bollywood cinema, this an Aussie rom-com.

UnIndian attempts to draw on the quirky family humour and cross-cultural tensions seen in films like Bride and Prejudice. Unfortunately, as there are about two minutes of plot stretched to feature length, UnIndian has absolutely no dramatic or romantic tension. This film is so astonishingly insubstantial it often threatens to evaporate. Also, the comedy here is so hackneyed it makes episodes of Mind Your Language look cutting edge.

The idea of sportsmen moving into the arts justifiably fills people with horror (just think of AFL players with guitars on the Footy Show). This puff pastry of a film hardly requires great thespian talents but Lee, despite looking awkward in some scenes, is passable here and if nothing else has an amiable screen presence. Oddly, the film downplays his cricketing prowess only depicting him gently rolling his arm over in a local club match. Tannishtha Chatterjee gives the film more acting credibility although there is not a lot of chemistry between her and Lee. Adam Dunn, who will be familiar to audiences through TV ads, plays Will’s gormless mate Mich and is allegedly the comedy relief but he never raises a chuckle. What did raise a laugh, though, was the gratuitousness of the Sydney tourism advertising and the saturation product placement for a medical tech company in this film.

UnIndian isn’t completely horrible. A few stereotypes aside it’s mostly inoffensive and occasionally sweet.   This may be a huge case of damning with faint praise but UnIndian is at least better than Manny Lewis.

Nick’s rating: **.

Genre: Romantic comedy

Classification: M.

Director(s): Anupam Sharma.

Release date: 15th October 2015.

Running time: 102 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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