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 IndianNuptuals.com (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
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
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.com (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
"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
She pillories the prospective husbands in Finding Preet. In one scene,
Chowdhury comes home to find a message from her parents on the answering
"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 IndianNuptuals.com 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
"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
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.
by Rolanda J. West
Hes 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
Filming in Chicagos Roscoe Village between Damen and Western
at La Mora Restaurant, Miller, producer of Finding Preet
seems excited. What theyre [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,
Finding Preet is the third feature film for director Adrian
Fulle, a Chicago native and Columbia College alum, now based in Los
Angeles. Fulles 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