In Geeta Malik’s comedy-drama “India Sweets and Spices”, she diligently tries to tackle societal constraints, generational gaps and class division issues. All of this is depicted with upscale parties where you see the stabbing remarks from the ‘aunties’, uncles playing keeping up with the jones, a certain class of people only being invited to the party.
When Alia Kapur played by Sophia Ali arrives home from the University of California for the summer she gets stuck with hosting parties organized by her parents for their upscale friends. We see the world from her perspective where she grew up accepting all of these things as a normal way of life. But as she is growing up and see these divisions, she is becoming aware of the divisions and gets frustrated with how hypocritical her own family is and the world she lives in. This becomes quite apparent when she invites the cute boy, Varun (Rish Shah), she runs into at the local Indian grocery store, ‘India Spice & Sweets’ along with his family, Bhairavi (Deepti Gupta) and Kamlesh (Kamran Shaikh), and as they didn’t belong in the same class.
The rumor mill starts turning, not only because this lower-class family is at the party, but also because Bhairavi knows Sheila. They were “classmates” although the awkward reunion suggests a history that’s a lot deeper than that. There are few more story threads here, and most of them mostly point this tale in the direction of melodrama. Alia’s love life is one, putting her between Varun, the guy she’s not supposed to be dating, and Rahul (Ved Sapru), the young man who more or less expects that they’ll date and get married and make both of their families happy along with all the aunties who are awaiting their big day.
That part of the story is mostly a dead end, because the real meat of Malik’s screenplay is about how social expectations— including who and when and why women are meant to marry are an element of how this gossipy culture pushes people to do what they do. It does motivate Alia as she starts to realize what she actually wants and who she wants to become. The other major storyline revolves around Alia’s discovery that her father is having an affair with Rahul’s mother (Priya Deva).
Initially, she isn’t sure if she should tell her mother, but matters become far more complicated when Alia learns that Sheila knows about her husband’s affair and apparently it wasn’t his first one as we find out later but sadly she has come to accept it as a suppressed wife stuck in an arrange deranged marriage. When Alia also learns that her mother was once part of a feminist organization in India with Bhairavi, she starts to question how things changed for Sheila and if that could be her own fate.
This development opens up a lot about and within this story, even as it’s hampered by the assorted story concerns surrounding it, which put the whole thing into a more conventional corner. The mother-daughter relationship feels the most vital, in terms of these characters and the central theme upon which Malik eventually focuses. It’s fascinating to watch how Sheila’s secret past and repressed present force the daughter to reconsider the society in which she was raised and to which she had grown accustomed, while Alia’s disappointment makes the mother stronger, more vocal, and more rebellious. This more thoughtful character development and their evolution, and the ideas beneath them isn’t undermined by the more straightforward and gimmicky plot elements, but they do sideline what Geeta Malik ultimately wants to say and do here. India Sweets and Spices attempts to do a lot with the little screen time which is to be admired.
Overall, this movie is definitely worth watching as it carries a strong message which sometimes gets lost as it is tackling a lot but the story is told in an easy to understand perspective of a teenager and a story that a lot of the younger generation can perhaps relate to. It is a movement in the right direction, to break the class divisions, to suppress the voice of women in our society and perhaps treat everyone fairly irrespective of their gender, class or skin colour. Everyone is hiding skeletons in their closet as can be seen as the whole town eventually confesses to their own issues.
The movie opens in theatres across Canada this coming Friday, December 3rd playing in theatres all across Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and other cities! Check out the trailer below.