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India Sweets and Spices

Alia Kapur (Sophia Ali) returns to her family's posh suburban New Jersey home after a year away at college and upends their well-ordered life with her brash independence. After befriending Varun (Rish Shah), the handsome son of the new owners of the local Indian grocery, she invites his family to a dinner party where family secrets are revealed. Alia's surprise turns to rebellion when she uncovers secrets about both her parents that push her toward a daring and ultimately hilarious confrontation. INDIA SWEETS AND SPICES celebrates a young woman's coming of age set against a lovingly framed glimpse of the life of an Indian American family.

‘India Sweets and Spices’ Review: Gossip, Secrets and Biting Laughs A party invitation exposes a family and a community in this Geeta Malik feature starring Sophia Ali.

By Lisa Kennedy, The New York Times

Sophia Ali, left, and Anita Kalathara in “India Sweets and Spices.”Credit...Eliza Morse/Bleecker Street

In Geeta Malik’s comedy-drama “India Sweets and Spices” the aunties maim. At least emotionally. The wives and mothers who live in an upscale New Jersey enclave of Indian Americans like their gossip spicy and don’t seem to care who feels the burn. (The scotch-drinking, suit-clad uncles aren’t laggards in that department either.)

When Alia Kapur (Sophia Ali) arrives home from the University of California, Los Angeles, for the summer, she sets in motion a maelstrom of chatter. Her plans to chill are derailed by her parents, who draft her into attending the Saturday parties that move from well-appointed home to well-appointed home, starting with theirs. On a whim, she invites Varun Dutta (Rish Shah) and his hard-working parents (the new owners of the titular grocery store) to the gathering. A summer of revelations ensues — the most startling of which concern Alia’s dad and mom, Ranjit (Adil Hussain) and Sheila (Manisha Koirala).

Caste snobbery has followed these families from India to the United States. While Alia and her friends roll their eyes at each other about their parents’ obsessions with status, they also enjoy the swimming pools, BMWs and California universities that those priorities make possible.

“India Sweets and Spices” is a gentle but firm take on the costs of keeping up with the Joneses, or the Devis in this case. Without sacrificing comedic buoyancy, Malik and her ensemble make palpable a community that is vibrant and claustrophobic. Koirala, a Bollywood star, brings a taut poise to a mother whose veneer seems adamantine until the Duttas walk in the door. Deepti Gupta delivers a soulful performance as the sage shopkeeper who knew Sheila a lifetime ago.

Virtual cinema: 

Playing at Hyland Cinema:

Directed by: 
Geeta Malik
Running Time: 
Sophia Ali, Manisha Koirala, Anita Kalathara
Screenplay by: 
Geeta Malik
PG; Coarse Language

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