How do you write a review of a film where the USP is the acting debut of Australian fast bowler Brett Lee without mentioning bowling, maidens, sticky wickets and being stumped? My attempt will be to sidestep the clichés, something this script, by Thushy Sathi, does not do.
Anupam Sharma directs a generic crossover romcom that touches on numerous clichés and stereotypes about cross-cultural relationships. Also serving as an advertisement for Sydney tourism (there’s a song with the lyric ‘Come fall in love with Sydney; just you and me in Sydney’), UNIndian is essentially the story of a courtship between an English language teacher named Will (Lee), who teaches Australian English to immigrants, and single parent Meera (Tannishtha Chatterjee).
Meera is a divorcee who is successful enough to own her own house, yet her parents (Supriya Pathak, Akash Khurana) are constantly flitting in and out, praying and plotting for her to marry a nice doctor. Naturally, the suitor they find is obnoxious and arrogant and there is no way the faultless Meera is going to fall for him. Will, on the other hand, is smitten by Meera from get-go and shares an instant comfort with her daughter Smita (Maya Sathi).
It takes a while, and many awkward meetings, before Meera takes the risk of dating a ‘gora’ (white boy). Sharma throws in a Holi party, a Salman Khan movie, a meddling auntie and parents worrying about what people will say, thereby checking the boxes of mandatory moments representing Indians living abroad.
Brett Lee may have been one of fastest bowlers in the world, but it takes him a while to navigate the Indian ways and win over Meera (“the hottie with a dot”) and her family. Fortunately his buddy TK (Arka Das, breezy and funny) gives him a crash course on desi ways and warns him of the ICN (Indian Community Network, the gossip channels that shares information as quickly as any news service). The scenes between Will, TK and their friend Mich (Adam Dunn) and the jousting banter within Indian community — whether between mother and daughter, friends, suitors or nosy aunties — work best. And yes, Lee does play some cricket too.
There are a few aspects that sent a bit of a shudder through me: Will, who has tagged along to watch Khan’s Kick, imagines himself in the ‘Jumme ki raat hai’ song with Meera; the introduction to a menacing, mustachioed camp Gulshan Grover (but let’s leave out the spoilers); and Chatterjee’s styling!
Meera’s character largely defies stereotypes and Chatterjee handles the part with steadiness. Lee makes a respectable, if slightly stiff, debut. The screenplay jumps around at times and pays lip service to issues ranging from homosexuality to immigrant integration. There are other touch-points too — mention of a gay ex, parents walking in on a naked boyfriend, and Smita’s confusion as a child of a divorce. And then after all this been there-seen that stuff, Sharma partially subverts the expected with the climax.
A simple film with flashes of charm and humour, UNIndian serves mainly as a showcase for Brett Lee trying his hand on a new pitch (I couldn’t resist slipping in one cliché).