Chutney Popcorn (1999)

Reena: "Mom, I'm a lesbian, I'm not sterile."
By Nisha Ganatra
With Nisha Ganatra, Jill Hennessy and Sakina Jaffrey

I am not sure how I learnt about Chutney Popcorn, but if I had to guess it would probably one of the similar movies to something else I watched.

The story focuses on Reena, a young lesbian of Indian heritage. The movie opens with Reena's sister, Sarita's wedding. The fact that Reena brought her girlfriend Lisa along makes Reena's mother uncomfortable. Reena is an aspiring photographer who works at a beauty salon doing henna tattoos, and she seems to be living happily with Lisa. When Sarita learns that she cannot have a child, Reena offers to have the baby, a decision that threatens to shatter the cultural and patriarchal bounds that inform the family dynamics.

At times, it is difficult to know whether it's a comedy or a drama, but overall it works out fairly well. The story is quite interesting on ethical and philosophical aspects, even if they are not necessarily dealt with entirely, they are questions that do come up through the movie. The cultural jokes work just fine, same with the lesbian self-deprecative humor. Where it comes harder to follow is when the movie becomes darker in tone and more serious, it is hard to grasp the real implications of everyone involved. The topics, themes and sub-culture, if I may call it that, felt very proto-The L Word (2004) which pleased me. The director, writer and improvised main actress did a really good job in my opinion as she was refreshing in her portrayal of Reena.

I liked: Theme of surrogate mother. Doesn't seem to preach.

I disliked: Sometimes the comical took away from the seriousness of the topic. A little superficial.

The strength of this film resides in the fact that it dares to touch sensitive and taboo topics. It falls a little short, but to anyone interested in LGBT issues this should be intriguing.


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