In Geeta Malik’s India Sweets and Spices, we are put into the world of affluent Indian-American culture, with all its color and exoticness. Yet, all may not be as bright and pleasant as it would seem. The filmmaker draws on her experience of growing up in this culture to give us a comedic view that has a serious side that can be related to by us all.
Second-generation Alia (Sophia Ali) has returned to her upscale suburban New Jersey home after a year at UCLA. She has discovered a sense of independence, but her family expects her to take part in all the local Indian immigrant community social events. The film is structured around a series of parties held at people’s mini-mansions—each trying to be better than the one before. For Alia, the question keeps coming up when a wedding will be planned. On a trip to a local Indian goods store, she meets Varun (Rish Shah), the son of the storekeepers, and invites him and his parents to her family’s party.
This causes some concern with Alia’s parents (Adil Hussain and Manisha Koirala) see these shopkeepers as a lower class of people. But there is a surprise, when Varun’s mother (Deepti Gupta) recognizes Alia’s mother as a close friend from their younger years. This becomes the first secret of many that will begin to tarnish the burnished grandeur her family has strived for. What Alia will discover is that for all the ostentation on display at these parties, in reality, there are many secrets—and many sorrows—being hidden. It is only when they begin to come out, that real independence can be discovered—for everyone.
Some of the issues that come into play are women’s role in society—both past and present, adultery, and class consciousness. We learn that the wealth this community has on such open display is not the source of happiness; it is merely a mask that hides the people’s unhappiness.
That, I think, is where we all can begin to tie in to this story. The world (especially the marketing world) teaches us that if we have more and more things, if we look more beautiful, if our house is bigger, if our car is fancier, than we will achieve happiness. Biblical teachers of wisdom have frequently spoken of the impermanence of riches. (Cf., Ecclesiastes 2:1-10, Matthew 6:19-21, James 1:9-11.)
As the film plays out, we see that when the truth of the past (and present) comes out, it becomes liberating. The burden of keeping so much hidden can be set aside to allow the characters to advance to find a happiness that will not, in James’s words, wither away.
India Sweets and Spices is playing in select theaters.
Photos courtesy of SK Global Entertainment