Finding Preet

NRI physician has turned her experience in
looking for an arranged match into a movie

Chicago, DECEMBER 26, 2004

At first glance, the dilemma sounds familiar: A successful woman in her late 30s isn't married, and her well-meaning but old-fashioned mother and father nag her to find a husband.

But two things set this story apart.

The victim in question, Priti Chowdhury, 37, a pediatric anesthesiologist named one of Chicago's most eligible women, spent a quarter of a million dollars to make a movie about her misadventures in love and dating. (And instead of objecting, her proud South Jersey parents are in it.)

Also, the Chowdhurys are not exactly like the Levines, notwithstanding the figure of the matchmaking yenta barking Old World commandments to couple and procreate. These parents come from a culture that, in the filmmaker's words, has "reduced marriage to a science" involving dowries, the caste system, and newspapers that feature not personal ads but "matrimonials."

Chowdhury's mostly autobiographical first film, Finding Preet, is a cultural snapshot of an immigrant group relatively new to these shores, whose customs are at the crossroads of irrelevance or reinvention.

Preet is a Hindi word for love, and beneath this modern career woman's typical angst about relationships lies another, older layer of angst, involving the tradition of arranged marriage that her parents from Voorhees persist in pitching to her. It led Chowdhury - the movie's producer, scriptwriter and lead actress - to mine her own experience as the child of immigrants from India.

Finding Preet, which she hopes will hit the independent-film festival circuit early next year, is the latest of a spate of recent movies - ABCD, American Desi, American Chai, Monsoon Wedding and this year's Indian Cowboy and The Arrangement - about second-generation Indian Americans whose choices in love are also styled as choices about becoming less or more American.

Chowdhury's film offers madcap moments from her East meets West attempts to find a suitable boy. She signs up for a $10,000 dating service run by a woman named Lana Forsight, M.D. (Master of Dating), while her mother Kanti scouts out suitors on a Web site called (fictional).

In real life, Chowdhury resisted her parents' attempts to set her up with an array of "nice Indian boys" and married a blond, blue-eyed, all-American boy instead. They divorced after six months.

"I went by my own instincts and got divorced," says the South Jersey-raised physician, who suddenly found herself in the position of having it all - except a man. "What do I trust now? Do I trust my own instincts or my parents?"

Laxmi and Kanti Chowdhury, who play themselves in the film, were only too glad to step in. They allowed her a respectful distance of two to three years after her divorce, then the fusillade of help began.


Portraying Priti Malani is actress Priti Chowdhury. Touted as one of Chicago
Magazine Hottest Singles, Chowdhury pulls triple duty as pediatric anesthesiologist
by day and owner of one of Roscoe Village's favorite dining establishments, La Mora, by night. Priti
also serves as writer and executive producer for “Finding Preet”. The story is loosely based
on Chowdhury's Indian family and experiences as a single woman in Chicago.

They placed a matrimonial ad:

NI (North Indian) Hindu parents seek compatible match for US raised MD daughter 34/5'4", extremely beautiful, well settled in Chicago. Brief issueless marriage.

And it appeared in the ethnic newspaper India Abroad and on Web sites such as (shaadi means wedding in Hindi). The Internet marriage portals, a hybrid of traditional and digital, are popular among a generation of Indian Americans giving a second chance to - and remaking - a custom they grew up ribbing and rebelling against.

In Priti Chowdhury's case, her parents were the matchmakers, and the comic take on arranged marriage did not stop with her acceptance of their help.


CLICK: Parents:

"We showed her so many pictures," Kanti Chowdhury said. "So many guys. . . . She agreed to the process, but she wasn't serious."

"To us, they were excellent boys," Laxmi Chowdhury said. "I told her in India, first they get married, they compromise, and then they fall in love. Here, it's the opposite. They fall in love, they get married, and there's no compromise."

Chowdhury did meet about 10 suitors picked by her parents over the years: "It was kind of awkward. They would take you to their family's house."

She pillories the prospective husbands in Finding Preet. In one scene, Chowdhury comes home to find a message from her parents on the answering machine:

"Priti, this is Mom. We found very good boys on the Internet. One is a doctor, internal medicine!"

"Another boy is from a very good family," her father says.

"He is not a doctor," her mother interjects, "but both his parents are."

In another scene, she sits at a computer screen encircled by her mother and aunts, who have zeroed in on an suitor pictured in traditional Indian clothes.

"Look. Perfect choice. Manoj Chablani is 35 years old and he owns a computer business," an aunt says.

"Ooooh, C-o-m-p-u-t-e-r-s," Chowdhury's brother says in a thick mock-Indian accent.

"Indian people in I.T.," her mother begins.

"Make a lot of money. I get it," Priti completes her thought.

"This country is bringing the smartest Indians here to work," another aunt says.

"And those smart people bring relatives to work at 7-Elevens," the smart-aleck brother remarks.

"Seeking correspondence from a female of any age. Does not like bad breath," says her mother, reading the would-be suitor's ad. "You see, beti [Hindi for daughter], you are the perfect candidate!"

The Chowdhurys and a cast and crew of 35 shot Finding Preet at Priti Chowdhury's hospital, a restaurant she owns in Chicago and a relative's house in Indiana. It took a month and cost $250,000; the movie does not yet have a distributor. Priti Chowdhury plans to enter it for Cannes consideration and in the Los Angeles Film Festival.

The movie ends with boy meeting girl, without the intervention of matchmakers of either the old world or new to make a big fat Indian wedding.

"I took [the idea of an arranged marriage] as seriously as I took the American dating service," Chowdhury said. "If I had felt a connection with anybody, I would have pursued it. . . . I don't think you can set criteria. You just have to learn to trust your heart again."

In real life, however, the happy ending remains elusive.

"I'm still working on it," Kanti Chowdhury said.


Chicago, DECEMBER 26, 2004

An Indian American physician has turned her experience in looking for an arranged match into a movie.

Finding Preet will be released on the American independent film circuit next month. The seeds for the movie were sown when the parents of Priti Chowdhury, 36, sought a suitable spouse for her through Indian ethnic newspapers and matrimonial sites.

Chowdhury, a paediatric anaesthesiologist in Chicago, was profiled by a Chicago magazine as one of the city's most eligible women.

The film is mostly autobiographical. It took Priti over a year to develop the script. In addition, she plays the female lead and is also the executive producer.

"This is a very personal story but one that occurs more and more these days," she said.

"With women being motivated to excel professionally, they sometimes let their personal goals fall to the wayside only to panic when they realise they are not getting any younger."

Priti's father, Laxmi Shankar, a nuclear power plant engineer, and her mother, Kanti, play themselves in the film.

The film goes through the rituals of traditional Indian match making, with her parents recommending one boy, who is considered a good catch because both his parents are physicians, or another who is in the IT industry with its enticing promise of economic prosperity.

"This is an East meets West story set in the modern day. You have two cultures trying to find love in each other," said Alex Skuby, who plays Priti's boyfriend in the film.

It is also about two contrasting approaches to marriage.

"In India," says Priti's father, Laxmi Shankar, "they get married, they compromise and they fall in love. Here (in the US) it is the opposite. They fall in love, they get married and then there is no compromise."

Billed as a romantic comedy, Finding Preet , was shot in Chicago, Michigan and Indiana. The shooting was over in 19 days, Priti said. The film will be released, to begin with, in the US.

"But, I would like it to go internationally," she said. "I would certainly like it to go to India."

The film had a crew of 35 Chicago-based professionals with director Adrian Fulle, a Chicago native, now based in Los Angeles, for whom this is the third feature film.

"We used the vibrant colour palette of Indian movies, which added warmth to the film," Priti said.

In addition to a 60-hour workday at the hospital, Priti owns a Mediterranean restaurant, which she revamped herself, right down to the paint job.

Her interest in acting goes back to her school days. "Growing up I did a lot of summer theatre," she said. "Later, I enrolled in night theatre classes as a kind of stress release, after spending several hours in surgery."

Priti decided to give the film a happy ending by having love conquer all. In real life, she has not been so lucky.

"This part is fiction," she said, "but making this movie has enabled me to relate to people in a more personal way. I have gained emotional growth from this experience, which I feel has made me a better physician."

Finding Preet has also given her the movie bug, so to speak. "I have a couple of scripts ready, one of them is a medical suspense mystery. I am looking for the finance," she said.



Finding Preet
by Rolanda J. West

He’s now speaking in hushed tones. On the set of the new feature film, “Finding Preet”, Dave Miller of IV Entertainment and Mindlight Films says in a whisper, “This is going to be a lot of fun.”

Filming in Chicago’s Roscoe Village between Damen and Western at La Mora Restaurant, Miller, producer of “Finding Preet” seems excited. “What they’re [the cast] about to do is run out of the restaurant onto the street, we have a few blocks sectioned off. This is going to be really good.”

“Finding Preet” is a romantic comedy based on the experiences of the writer, executive producer, and lead actress, Pritti Chowdury. Her character in the film is a successful 34-year old, Indian-American, doctor and restaurant owner in Chicago, searching for love. Her traditional Indian family — wondering why their oldest daughter is not married to a “nice Indian boy” — and her over zealous girlfriends — who in turn encourage her to seek out the man of her dreams — go to extremes to find love for “Preet” when it just may be her business partner Jake after all.

It took Chowdury over two years to develop the story and write the script for “Finding Preet”. She approached Miller to produce the film. The male lead is “Jake,” is played by Los Angeles-based actor Alex Skuby (“King of Queens”, “The Division”, “ER”).

“Finding Preet” is the third feature film for director Adrian Fulle, a Chicago native and Columbia College alum, now based in Los Angeles. Fulle’s other projects include “Love 101” (also directed by Miller) and “Nines,” the fan favorite at the Toronto International Film Festival. Fulle had directed films in California, but ultimately prefers his home city.

“Finding Preet” was shot in Chicago and Michigan City, IN on HD. Production of the film began on April 29th and will wrap by the end first week of June. With a 24 day production schedule, over two-thirds of the film will be shot in Chicago