1. India Post
2. Hindustan Times
3. International Film Festival Of India 2000
4. Sandhya Times
Arts in Review
An American dream that went sour again
By ANTARA NANDA
INDIA POSTS ASIA BUREAU
NEW DELHI : The great American dream gone sour. So what if there were only a pocketful of them. They sketched a land of plenty, where "dollars float in air." The lure strong enough for you to chuck up a secure, comfortable life in India and set sail for uncertainty. But the carrot that looked so red and luscious from afar takes no time to turn into a stick. By then it is just too late.
Armed with a "A Pocketful of Dreams" Prem (Sachin Khedekar) is the first to head for the US, disillusioned by six long years of futile struggle to build a career in television in India. He ends up as a cleaner boy in a New York restaurant. But his tales of being "Manager" of a restaurant are lucrative enough for his brother Om (Dr. Mohan Agashe), his wife Asha (Anju Mahendru) and daughter Sanjana (Sheetal Sheth) to leave behind their lavish lifestyles in India in search of the green bucks. Result? Om, a serving colonel in the Indian army, finds himself carting supplies as a security guard in a New York store. Asha turns into a cleaning woman for a rich white lady. And Sanjana joins college only to be promptly seduced by a rich, debonair American
classmate and ends up with an unwanted pregnancy.
New York-based immigration lawyer Kuldip Singh Kasuri has seen too many such cases of dreams turning into nightmares overnight, leaving the
starry eyed emigrants shattered and entrapped. The film is therefore more of "an educational film" striving to demolish the myths that beckon thousands every year to the land of promise.
"I conceived the story. It is based on factual immigration cases. I owed it to my people." Kasuri told India Post, over whelmed by the warm response to his film at the 31st International Film Festival of India (IFFI 2000) at New Delhi. "The kids never want to return to India irrespective of what happens, but the older people find it difficult to adjust and they do come back sometimes," he added. For an emigrant family, the monetary losses are just one part of the expensive gamble. The other, more poignant loss is one of self-respect and the pathos of being uprooted from one's culture and floundering to familiarize one self with an alien one. As Sanjana takes on wings after her first taste of freedom, her parents Om and Asha are unable to reconcile themselves to their "little daughter's changing moods, new friends, don't-you-dare-me demeanor. When Om hits her for deliberate disobedience, Sanjana calls the police on her shocked parents. On the flip side, Prem proves that it is America where you can start of with the menial of jobs and yet dare to dream big. After a few months of struggle he lands a jobs as a TV producer. Unlike Om and Asha, he does not consider his
cramped one-room basement and cleaner-boy job a slur on his dignity for America respects "the dignity of labor" unlike India.
"A Pocketful of Dreams" has been a "sincere", exploration of the angst of the uprooted. "It's the story of virtually every emigrant going for the sole reason of dollars - the "money banao chakkar". He loses the hang of his family, counting only the Rs.43 per minute earnings. Once he's growth over that, he looks around only to find that the daughter does not talk to him, the wife has a life of her own. And he coolly blames it on the US. Look, nobody invited you there. And if you expect the same social norms and cultural codes, you are mistaken."
Agrees Dr. Mohan Agashe, a psychiatrist who is now the director of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune and plays Om in the film, "The film gives an lndian perspective to the conflict of cultures." Agashe also feels that such films about the
travails of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) will find a ready market even in India. "With satellite television, an average viewer is well aware of what is happening in the distant shores. He can relate to anything," he says.
Kasuri Productions Inc is now looking towards releasing the film both in USA and India. Being the debut film of both the producer and the director, the film has its minuses. The script suffers from predictability and
clichés that almost make you guess what is going to happen next. Some unimaginative camerawork and jarring notes such as Sanjana sporting a pronounced American accent in Mumbai without ever having gone to US can be overlooked since the film aptly captures the dilemma of transition for an archetypal Indian family.
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