Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Hiding Divya

Intimate indie about a disaffected desi in Edison, N.J., who with her 16-year-old daughter must face her own mother's ever-more-evident mental illness.

Aug 19, 2010

-By Frank Lovece


filmjournal/photos/stylus/148597-Divya_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Addressing a collective cultural turning-of-a-blind-eye in the Indian immigrant and first-generation (desi) community, this independent feature from a Pakistani/Filipino-American playwright and theatre producer carries an authenticity that helps gloss over its weaknesses. Hiding Divya should play well in the Indian-American market and in the cable aftermarket.

Shot in New Jersey in 2005 and completed in 2006, this modest feature centers on Palini "Linny" Shah (Pooja Kumar), a self-absorbed beauty with a smart and self-aware 16-year-old daughter, Jia (Madelaine Massey). For indeterminate reasons, Linny, who lives in New York City, is flat-broke, and when her unmarried mother's longtime companion—Linny's all-but-official stepfather—dies, Linny and Jia move back to Edison to live temporarily with Linny's mom, Divya (the great Indian actress and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey, who with her husband Saeed Jaffrey introduced James Ivory to Ismail Merchant).

Linny, as Jia sneers to neighbor boy Daniel (Kunal Sharma), is "young for her age." Not surprisingly, Jia instantly takes to her grandmother, a thoroughly American suburbanite who still knows her way around the old country's cuisine and culture, and who is the polar opposite of the petulant, immature and needlessly nasty Linny, who has deliberately distanced herself from what she calls "this Indian crap."

Not helping Linny's mood is that the judgmental small town where she grew up is largely Indian-American, and the traditionalists of her mother's generation look down on her and, to a lesser extent, her mother—who has always acted a little odd, and now that she's widowed, is beginning to act out. Linny is at first disdainfully dismissive when Divya's black depression won't let Divya get out of bed—"It's just my mother, she's always been like this"—but after a while realizes she has to step up and grow up.

First-time feature filmmaker Rehana Mirza, who wrote and directed, and producer Rohi Mirza Pandya, her sister, who produced, catch suburban ambience just right. There's a strong sense of place, and the pace is admirably brisk.

Mirza isn't on quite as solid ground with her actors. Jaffrey is magnificent, a font of seemingly effortless grace notes from her very first scene. But Kumar—the St. Louis-born 1995 Miss India World, who's had a solid career as an Indian TV hostess and sometime actress—doesn't exhibit the depth to support her transformation nor the vulnerability to make Linny's brittleness palatable. And at 28 years old when this was filmed, the extraordinarily beautiful starlet looks too young to be 16-year-old Jia's mom. American Desi star Deep Katdare, playing Linny's nerdy high-school classmate turned medical doctor and would-be paramour, has some funny moments, but his big accusatory speech when even he's had enough of Linny just sounds like petulant whining.

That's probably nothing a couple more takes couldn't have fixed, and whatever shortcomings this professionally done feature may have stem from budget and time. Mirza seems a filmmaker in control, and it'll be interesting to see her work develop.


Film Review: Hiding Divya

Intimate indie about a disaffected desi in Edison, N.J., who with her 16-year-old daughter must face her own mother's ever-more-evident mental illness.

Aug 19, 2010

-By Frank Lovece


filmjournal/photos/stylus/148597-Divya_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Addressing a collective cultural turning-of-a-blind-eye in the Indian immigrant and first-generation (desi) community, this independent feature from a Pakistani/Filipino-American playwright and theatre producer carries an authenticity that helps gloss over its weaknesses. Hiding Divya should play well in the Indian-American market and in the cable aftermarket.

Shot in New Jersey in 2005 and completed in 2006, this modest feature centers on Palini "Linny" Shah (Pooja Kumar), a self-absorbed beauty with a smart and self-aware 16-year-old daughter, Jia (Madelaine Massey). For indeterminate reasons, Linny, who lives in New York City, is flat-broke, and when her unmarried mother's longtime companion—Linny's all-but-official stepfather—dies, Linny and Jia move back to Edison to live temporarily with Linny's mom, Divya (the great Indian actress and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey, who with her husband Saeed Jaffrey introduced James Ivory to Ismail Merchant).

Linny, as Jia sneers to neighbor boy Daniel (Kunal Sharma), is "young for her age." Not surprisingly, Jia instantly takes to her grandmother, a thoroughly American suburbanite who still knows her way around the old country's cuisine and culture, and who is the polar opposite of the petulant, immature and needlessly nasty Linny, who has deliberately distanced herself from what she calls "this Indian crap."

Not helping Linny's mood is that the judgmental small town where she grew up is largely Indian-American, and the traditionalists of her mother's generation look down on her and, to a lesser extent, her mother—who has always acted a little odd, and now that she's widowed, is beginning to act out. Linny is at first disdainfully dismissive when Divya's black depression won't let Divya get out of bed—"It's just my mother, she's always been like this"—but after a while realizes she has to step up and grow up.

First-time feature filmmaker Rehana Mirza, who wrote and directed, and producer Rohi Mirza Pandya, her sister, who produced, catch suburban ambience just right. There's a strong sense of place, and the pace is admirably brisk.

Mirza isn't on quite as solid ground with her actors. Jaffrey is magnificent, a font of seemingly effortless grace notes from her very first scene. But Kumar—the St. Louis-born 1995 Miss India World, who's had a solid career as an Indian TV hostess and sometime actress—doesn't exhibit the depth to support her transformation nor the vulnerability to make Linny's brittleness palatable. And at 28 years old when this was filmed, the extraordinarily beautiful starlet looks too young to be 16-year-old Jia's mom. American Desi star Deep Katdare, playing Linny's nerdy high-school classmate turned medical doctor and would-be paramour, has some funny moments, but his big accusatory speech when even he's had enough of Linny just sounds like petulant whining.

That's probably nothing a couple more takes couldn't have fixed, and whatever shortcomings this professionally done feature may have stem from budget and time. Mirza seems a filmmaker in control, and it'll be interesting to see her work develop.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

May in the Summer
Film Review: May in the Summer

Jordanian brides, their sisters, difficult moms and diffident men would seem to have a lot in common with Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Heigl and other WASP princesses with their own predictable white-gown blues in countless rom-coms. More »

To be Takei
Film Review: To Be Takei

The kaleidoscopic life of the Enterprise's chauffeur—an Asian and gay showbiz pioneer—is explored in this entertaining but diffuse documentary. More »

K2: Siren of the Himalayas
Film Review: K2: Siren of the Himalayas

Mountaineering documentary follows an expedition to K2 in the Himalayas. More »

The Possession of Michael King
Film Review: The Possession of Michael King

All unhappy families may be unhappy in their own way, but movies about possession/exorcism tend to a numbing sameness. That said, The Possession of Michael King, yet another "found footage" frightener, whips up some creepy moments and features a strong performance by Shane Johnson as the atheist who makes the mistake of daring the Devil to prove he's not just another bogeyman. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Film Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Neither significantly better nor worse than its predecessor, the belated Sin City sequel is more of a repeat, rather than a continuation, of the original. More »

If I Stay
Film Review: If I Stay

Delivers as promised. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here