Not So Platonic Cousins

DUBAI - Director Amyn Kaderali’s debut feature film, ‘Kissing Cousins’, may have American actors of South Asian origin, but the director and his lead actor, Samrat Chakrabarti who plays the lead role of Amir, are confident that the storyline, the characters and the situations created by them will have a universal appeal — be it in Dubai or the United States.

By Preeti Kannan

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Published: Tue 16 Dec 2008, 1:49 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 5:14 PM

A ‘relatively’ romantic comedy, the film hinges on the delicate and not-so platonic relationship cousins usually share, but in a comic way. The plot revolves around Amir, a ‘relationship termination specialist’, who provides ‘dumping services’ for disgruntled daters, and how his life changes after a cousin comes along.

“I dump people and I break up relationships. If you want to break up with someone, it’s one of the hardest things to do, and I am hired like a middleman. I go to the person and say it is over. It is kind of cold but is also a matter of fact,” says Chakrabarti, who is in Dubai for the movie’s Middle East premiere.

“My character, Amir, doesn’t believe in love or relationships because he breaks up four to five people a day. Life is flat until he meets this cousin who at some point poses as his ‘significant’ other. She is a bit naughty and mischievous and she introduces herself as my girlfriend in front of everyone. I go along with it. All of a sudden, my life changes, but at the same time it is a lie and she is my cousin,” adds the actor, speaking of his role.

The actor, who has acted in a number of Indian-English films, concedes that being Caucasian has its challenges of acceptance. “As a South Asian actor and a Caucasian in America, it is very difficult to get an interesting role. Often, you are playing the role of doctors or cabbies. That is how America is right now. However, things are changing and moving in the right direction,” he says optimistically, adding that there is still a long way to go.

Kaderali, also in the emirate for Dubai International Film Festival, analyses the universal relationship between cousins as ‘interesting’. “Cousins are part of your family but they can also be friends. You don’t grow up with them but may be attracted to them. But in the American context, it is taboo,” he said.

However, the director believes that it is the choice of the film’s name that makes it even more controversial. “When people go to the movie, they do not know what to expect. But it is such a light-hearted movie that it is like a relief. It is not a big love story but it’s more of a funny, light entertainment. We don’t get too serious about it,” he adds.

The film’s crew members were apprehensive if the theme and the humour in the film would appeal to the Middle East audiences. “It was the first screening in the Middle East and they were a different crowd. We were wondering if the jokes would be similarly received. However, people were laughing at the screening (on Friday) and it was a relief,” adds Kaderali.

The filmmaker and the actor hope that Barack Obama’s presidency would bring winds of change and have a wider impact on the minority film fraternity like theirs. “The recent news of Obama coming in to presidency has helped push the idea of the broadness of what America is. The America I see is a rainbow of races and the type of people who live there,” says the young director, adding that ‘Kissing Cousins’ could be about anyone. “It just happens to be an Indian guy and that is a refreshing take. Why should the lead be Ashton Kutcher? Why can’t it go to any deserving minority character?” he said.

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