A fine mix between slapstick, intelligent and colloquial humour, here's a film that falls in the same league as a Hyderabad Blues, Snip, Split Wide Open, English August...
Based on Anurag Mathur's novel by the same name, The Inscrutable Americans is a fantastic account of a small-town boy caught in the fascinating, enigmatic, inexplicable whirl of the great United States of America.
Gopal (Rajiv Punja) is a bumpkin from Jajau, somewhere south of the Vindhyas.
Thanks to his exceptionally brilliant grasp of Chemistry, which comes from working in the family-owned coconut oil business, he lands an opportunity to go to the States and get a degree in chemical engineering.
The film is about the year Gopal spends in the States, and his myriad experiences there.
Culture shock would probably be a nice little word to describe his experiences -- with the and Indian students there. But it is inadequate. So there.
Gopal has a partner, Randy (Eron Otcasek), who has taken it upon himself to introduce Gopal to the greatest pleasure of all time: Sex.
Gopal, a truly earnest man-child -- he irons his underwear, oils his hair before going to a party and claps at the end of a bardance performance -- is shocked to discover the completely indifferent attitude Americans have towards Indian moral issues such as sex, alcoholism and women.
The account of Gopal (who's name often gets confused with Bhopal), hilarious though it may be, is something that we could do well with examining. He meets people like Bush, short for Bhushan (Jai Menon), who has come from the 'hell-hole' and hates everything Indian, and thinks of himself as a complete American.
And Randy's parents, simple, home-loving country folk, like any family from India. And women like Sue (Jana Williams), a nice girl, but with fewer scruples than he thought. And Gloria (Stacci Cobb), the landlady who is a typical overfed lonely American woman who, out of sheer desperation, makes a pass at him.
The fascinating range of people he meets astonishes him completely. It also gives him a deeper understanding of life, a better comprehension of the reasons behind the too-strict, conservative culture he has left behind to seek in these newer pastures.
The end sees Gopal, virginity intact, returning home, wiser, sadder and definitely more aware of who he is, where he comes from and where he wants to be.
His experiences indicate a poignant, soundless cry from the countless Indians who make it to the land of dreams and don't know quite how to deal with once they get there. And then, you win some, you lose some.
Gopal, it looks, is definitely a winner.
A first-time film, the technical snags are so terrible here that if one goes to write about them, it would fill a few pages comfortably. The camera-work is horrendous, the cinematography leaves everything to be desired.
But as small-budget films go, The Inscrutable Americans is a marvellous attempt. The performances are tremendous, the dialogue truly crackles with wit and an earthy, though ribald, humour.
Director: Chandra Siddartha
Cast: Rajiv Punja, Eron Otcasek, Jana Williams, Ronnie Jane, Jai Menon, Stacci Gobb