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  • Shaiful A.

8 South-Asian Diaspora Films You Must Watch

Part of the call to more representation in Western film industries is the demand for film plots that authentically depict the lives of South Asians living across the Western World. The call to depict this particular experience has taken root in a genre known as “Diaspora Films,” which highlight the intersectional identities of protagonists living in the West and East. Films of this kind are extremely important to South Asians living in the West because they allow us to work through the complexities, adversities, and joys of our diasporic experiences in an accessible and digestible manner.

The Namesake (2006)

Based on a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake follows Ashoke (Irrfan Khan) and his spouse Ashima (Tabu) as they move from Calcutta to New York City and try to maintain their Bengali identity while raising their two children Gogol (Kal Penn) and Sonia (Sahira Nair). The film touches on the issues of balancing their dualistic identities, familial and marital issues, and grief. This film will surely take you on an emotional rollercoaster, so be sure to grab a box of tissues before you sit down to watch!

Bride and Prejudice (2004)

Bride and Prejudice spins the plotline of Jane Austin’s novel Pride and Prejudice following the life of Lalita (Aishwarya Rai), her three sisters and her parents as they seek eligible suitors to marry their daughters. Lalita becomes romantically involved with Will Darcy (Martin Henderson), a generationally-wealthy American man. Tensions rise in this film as Lalita is met with a number of perspectives for marriage while simultaneously forming a bond with Darcy. The film plays on familiar Bollywood tropes, including numerous song and dance numbers that pays homage to the Hindi-Film industry while depicting the entire film in English to appeal to the western audience. This film is through and through a Bollywoodesque love story with a Western spin.

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

Bend It Like Backham is a coming of age film that follows a Punjabi-Sikh teen named Jesminder or “Jess” (Parminder Nagra) as she navigates young adulthood while living with her conservative family in London. The premise of the film focuses on Jess’ passion for soccer as she joins an women’s soccer team unbeknownst to her family who implores her to align with traditional gender roles expected of her as a Punjabi woman. This film is one that conveys a strong spirit of ambition in audiences as Jess does any and everything in her power to follow her dreams of playing pro. This film is definitely a must-see.

Monsoon Wedding (2001)

This film follows a large family as they collectively gather for a wedding. The film centers varying individual stories/and conflicts within the family. It deals with themes such as coming of age, love, traditionalism vs. modernism, etc.

Today’s Special (2009)

Today’s Special is a comedic film which highlights the rich tradition of South-Asian food, tying it to the rocky relationship Samir (Aasif Mandvi) , a chef has with his father, Hakim (Harish Patel) , an owner of a failing restaurant. Samir is forced to look at his culture and familial structure through a new lens when his father suddenly has a heart attack. This film will surely have you laughing and even crying!

The Kite Runner (2007)

Based off of the renowned novel by Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner is a compelling film about Amir, an Afghan-American who is confronted with issues from his past when an old friend of his father calls him to Pakistan to fulfill one last duty. Anyone who has read The Kite Runner, knows that this story is a tearjerker which deals with guilt, loss, identity, and making amends with the past.

Mississippi Masala (1991)

This film follows the story of Mina (Sarita Chaudhury), a recent Indian emigrant from Uganda. Upon her arrival to Mississippi she falls for Demetrius (Denzel Washington). Tensions rise as Mina’s family objects to their pairing which is driven by racism. This film examines Anti-Blackness in the South-Asian community through unique storytelling and plotlines. It is through and through a classic.

Bazodee (2015)

Bazodee follows Anita (Natalie Perera) as she is set to marry a wealthy Londoner, a union which will pull her family out of deep financial debt. Anita soon falls for a Lee De Leon (Machel Montano), a Trinidadian singer. The two form a mutual bond which leaves Anita to make the decision to follow her heart or sacrifice her love for her family’s financial recovery.

What is your favorite diaspora film? Let us know on our varying platforms @Joremagazine

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