A movie about NRIs

Directed by Raj Nidimoru and DK Dasarakothapalli

BANGALORE, October 14 2004

We've heard of NRI blues, stemming from the Soil. But you've probably heard the story so often that there's little to differentiate between soil and moulds.

So, software engineers Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. have churned out their own Flavours. ``It's a quirky comedy about Indians in the US. We wanted to make one definitive movie about NRIs and break the existing moulds,'' says Krishna.

Flavours, due for release in India on October 22, revolves around a few characters in the US but tackles issues that are universal.

``Relationships, monotony of life and loneliness - these are the issues we look at,'' Nidimoru says. ``But it is done with humour. The characters take prominence and the issues are constantly in the background. We are trying to tell people that you can handle issues like this too.''

He adds that while the characters are very Indian, the story telling has a universal approach. ``So it needn't necessarily be about Indians in the US. It could be any other people in any other country,'' he asserts.

Nidimoru and Krishna have known each other for about 15 years. While the former holds an MS degree in industrial engineering, Krishna is a computer science graduate. ``Both of us had a passion for films. We used to watch a lot of movies and discuss them later,'' says Krishna.

Nidimoru explains that the two of them gradually got into script writing and experimented with formats and stories. The duo made a couple of short-films before venturing into a full-length feature film.

Flavours as been shot entirely in the US and has multiple storylines. There are close friends Kartik and Rachna who are 3,000 km away from each other; Rad and his fiance Jenny; Rad's friend Nikhil, and his parents.

Then there are also the jobless friends Ashok, Jas and Vivek, their landlady Candy, who disapproves of their lifestyle, and Sangita, who lives in a world of daily TV soaps and romance novels. In short, a plethora of characters. It stars Anjan Srivastava, Bharati Achrekar, Reef Karim, Pooja Kumar and Rishma Malik.

The film was nominated at various festivals including the Asian American International Festival for ``best emerging director'' and at Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival for ``best feature film.''

The duo is thinking about a couple of other projects including a slightly bigger film in a slightly bigger format.

``We are thinking of tackling some other issues which haven't yet been looked at. Then there's a Hindi film we are mulling over,'' he adds




So, who wants to watch a movie about three techies on the bench?

From the makers of Shaadi.com, Raj Nidimoru and Krishna 'DK' Dasarakothapalli, comes Flavours, a movie "that takes on the challenge of its quirky narrative as it intertwines four stories into a coherent whole."

And no, it's not about techies living the life or facing layoffs in Silicon Valley and other tech centres in North America, even though the tech world does form a backdrop to this latest offering by Nidimoru and Dasarakothapalli.

Flavours is the result of the two directors' aim to make a definitive movie about first generation South Asians in North America.

"This movie is not about getting a green card or a bunch of techies going through a layoff period," said Dasarakothapalli in an interview after the movie's screening at the third annual ReelWorld Film Festival, which took place at the Famous Players Silvercity North York theatres from April 2 to 6. ReelWorld Film Festival is Canada's premiere non-profit film festival dedicated to promoting and celebrating the full spectrum of culturally and racially diverse films, video and new media from Canada and around the world.
"So far all the so called NRI (Non Resident Indian) movies have been about the so called ABCDs," he elaborated further. "We didn't really want to dwell on the cultural differences. That (subject) has been done to death already. Well, even in our movie, there is a small element of that aspect. You know, getting used to life in America, the differences. But we wanted to go beyond that.
"We're here, so it's about getting used to it."

Flavours tells not one, but four stories. As it unfolds you realize the four stories are actually part of one coherent whole. In one of the four situations you meet Rad's parents who have come from India to bless their son's marriage to his white girlfriend Jenni. In the second you laugh along with Vivek, Ashok and Jas, three techies on the bench, who rent a house from Candy, a strong willed HR rep played by our own Rishma Malik. The third story follows the cellular relationship of Kartik and Rachna. And the fourth narrative explores the dilemma of a lonely desi housewife Sangitha and her just-laid-off husband Nikhil.

That the tech world is offered as a backdrop for the movie isn't surprising. After all, the director duo belongs to the tech world. Nimidoru has a B Tech in mechanical engineering and an MS in industrial engineering, while Dasarakothapalli has a B Tech in computer science. Both currently have day jobs as software consultants. But filmmaking is what they eventually want to pursue fulltime.

Nimidoru and Dasarakothapalli had been classmates in India, where they grew up before coming to the United States in 1994 and 1996 respectively.

"We used to be team mates in cultural competitions," said Dasarakothapalli, explaining how they got into filmmaking. "In India, we always watched movies. It was the only form of entertainment about 10 years ago. It wasn't as common to go to clubs or bars back then.

"The monotony of the tech life was another factor. We realized we could end up like typical software guys. Get married, get a green card… (The filmmaking career) started off with just writing a few scripts."

Another reason for the two techies to get behind a camera was their frustration with Bollywood. As movie buffs, Nidimoru and Dasarakothapalli were disappointed by the recent crop of Bollywood movies with ideas that dated back to the 70's. The huge gap of production values and innovation between Hollywood and Bollywood armed the director duo with a "cocky ambition." They made an eight-minute long psychological thriller short called Just Me. The success of the project made them bolder, and they followed their debut with a mockumentary Love, Relationships and Other Trivial Things, which was followed by Shaadi.com.

"Shaadi.com got great reviews," said Dasarakothapalli. "It even played here in Toronto, at the Filmi film festival."
Shaadi.com also put the two directors in touch with Anupam Mittal, founder of A. Mittal Enterprises, a company with interests in internet media, film production and textiles. Mittal agreed to come on board as producer on Nidimoru and Dasarakothapalli's next project, Flavours.

The idea of Flavours had been brewing in the directors' heads for a while.

"We got started on this project right after Shaadi.com," said Dasarakothapalli. "We had so many stories to tell. So we thought we should make an ensemble film, which would tie all the stories together. Some of these stories are our experiences; some are our friends' experiences."

The director duo went through five drafts to make the plot as seamless as possible. They enlisted a mixed cast that includes veteran Bollywood actors Anjan Srivastava and Bharati Achrekar, Hollywood actors (the oh-so-cute) Reef Karim and Jicky Schnee and acting newbies (and more cuties) Mohit Shah, Gaurang Vyas and Gaurav Rawal as well as an impressive crew including one of the top directors of photography in the Midwest, Dave Isern, editor of the five-time Oscar nominated film In the Bedroom Frank Reynold and award-winning art director Tushar Unadkat.
The film is currently in post production but Nidimoru and Dasarakothapalli hope to release Flavours in a few months.
As for their next venture?
"Perhaps we'll go to India and make a cool mainstream movie. Not the Bollywood kind. It will be a new age Indian movie," laughed Dasarakothapalli.