This review is for a film originally viewed at the 20th Annual Tallgrass Film Festival. WD;ED will update when the film becomes available either in theatres or on VOD.
It’s really hard to cover it up when Wes Anderson is one of your primary inspirations. I mean…I hate to be that blunt, but it really is. That serves as a discredit to some filmmakers, but for Ravi Kapoor’s Four Samosas it shines through as one of its greatest strengths. A rom-com set in L.A.’s “Little India” section, Artesia, it puts together several different quirky characters while still managing to incorporate Bollywood imagery, hip-hop music, and a variety of different food-based jokes all at once.
And who are these four Samosas? Well, you’ve got Paru (Sonal Shah), an immigrant that never got her Green Card in the mail after graduating from a well-renowned engineering school. You’ve got Zak (Nirvan Patnaik), who holds down a small day job and is convinced that lovely overachiever-turned-partner-in-crime Anjali (Sharmita Bhattacharya) has a crush on him. She does, and it’s quite obvious. The group is led through their adventure by Vinny (Venk Potula), a former rapper that swears he’s working on new material but he’s been stuck ever since his girlfriend, Rina (Summer Bishil) left him. The gang constantly reminds him that this was three years ago and that he needs to get over it, but when goat shit expert Sanjay (Karan Soni) informs Vinny that he will marry Rina now it turns the young rapper’s head. He gathers his motley crew to steal diamonds from Rina’s father’s grocery store, which are locked in a safe in the office and are supposedly smuggled into the country illegally, to sabotage the financing for the wedding and call the whole thing off.
The Rom-Com is a genre of film that’s been relegated to straight-to-streaming fare for quite some time, but Kapoor’s film seems designed for it: a microbudget film shot in Academy Ratio with a fascinating, brightly lit and washed-out color palette that manages to be adorable despite some of its reliance on tried and true humor. Most of the film lands with no issues, but there are spurts here and there that show true form and stand out. Participating in a series of increasingly ridiculous challenges with a rival hip-hop crew to borrow power tools, a man’s penchant for knocking things over in anger (and almost immediately feeling bad and putting them back), and even a father’s desire to merely see his daughter happy all come together in the end to form a sweet story that’s unfortunately just a bit too tired.
Perhaps a good chunk of that is up to the viewer’s sense of humor. I haven’t ever found bad rapping to be humorous. Four Samosas relies heavily on the sense that repeated scenes of such fare be utilized as humor, most of which didn’t land for me. It’s woven into the entire film, with beats and verses repeated throughout the script to give you that sensation of rhythm and repetition that comes from an earworm rap song. The fact that they pulled this off is a triumph, but there’s a slavish adherence to the comedic rule of three that unfortunately bogs the whole thing down and when mixed with the awkward rapping it just put me off for some of the film.
But that isn’t to say the film isn’t without its wonderful aspects! Everyone overcommits to their performances, creating a community that feels lived-in and familiar despite how new it will feel to most viewers. While much of this comes from being based on a real community even more comes from the familiarity between the performers and the trust they clearly have in their director. This is, after all, a heist movie. So often these stories wind up being about found family (see Soderbergh’s Oceans 11 trilogy) and Kapoor accomplishes just that. It lends a naturalistic sweetness that ultimately keeps the film afloat, rendering most scenes charming and mostly funny even when some of the humor needs a polish.
While Four Samosas isn’t perfect I feel that it’s a silly, funny, kind, and charming little romantic comedy. These types of films are beginning to be a rarity and I hope more of this fare begins returning to the silver screen. It’s honest and deliberate, which is more than I can say for many others of its kind, and I think most will have a lovely time with it.