(Mishqah Parthiephal & Madhushan Singh)
The focus on Chatsworth and its Indian community is praiseworthy. (Review by Patrick Compton - 4/10)
Hard as it sometimes is, it’s vitally important not to view local cinema through rose-tinted spectacles.
We do our industry and cinema patrons no favours if we are dishonest about the quality of our local product. Our film producers, script writers, directors, technicians and actors deserve no special favours or indulgence.
Sadly, the eagerly awaited comedy, Keeping Up With The Kandasamys, is a lost opportunity and it’s particularly sad that this is the last movie produced by the admired Junaid Ahmed who died in November last year aged 57. He deserved a better legacy and filmgoers should rather remember his big hit, Happiness is a Four Letter Word.
There’s nothing wrong with this movie’s bid for commercial clout, with the title’s reference to the Kardashians, however crass that TV series is. With Afrikaans cinema doing so well, it’s understandable that producers and sponsors want local black cinema to do better at the box-office.
The movie focuses on two warring Indian families in Chatsworth, or rather two matriarchs in adjoining houses whose mutual enmity brings them together in a plot to ensure that the budding love affair between the son in one family, and the daughter in another, is destroyed.
The movie’s Romeo and Juliet-type material is potentially serviceable, and of course the focus on Chatsworth and its Indian community is praiseworthy. The problem lies not in the concept but in the film’s wooden execution, and by that I mean Jayan Moodley and Rory Booth’s stilted script and Moodley’s stiff direction.
The opening is promising, with panoramic shots of the Durban coastline accompanied by a narrator’s voice telling us that, contrary to what we might think, these images do not convey the essence of Durban. For that, we are told, we need to travel inland to an Indian township cheekily named in pre-democracy times after an ancient English family. There are references to people crammed together in closely adjoining houses and the fact that you can smell your next-door-neighbour’s cooking. Nevertheless, we are promised, the community has made the best of a bad job and is vibrant and functional.
So far so good, but it is when we settle into the parallel lives of the two families that the film-makers fail to make good on their promise. The two women who head up the families, Jennifer Kandasamy (Jailoshini Naidoo) and Shanti Naidoo (Maeshni Naicker), completely overshadow their shadowy husbands who have to make their personal friendship a secret, playing golf (at Kloof Country Club) and giving themselves code names for cellphone conversations.
It’s the women who wear the trousers and neither of them is personable. Jennifer is the worst kind of upwardly mobile snob and Shanti is a guzzling hairdresser who longs for her rival’s status.
The two women would, no doubt, have happily continued to sneer at each other from across the fence but for one thing – their children are in love. The beautiful Jodi Kandasamy (Mishqah Parthiephal) and Prishen Naidoo (Madhushan Singh) are both students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The thought of the Kandasamys and the Naidoos becoming “family” if the two were to marry is clearly too much for the matriarchs.
So we have the irony of the two rivals uniting in a common cause, a volatile arrangement that has its ups and downs as the two families are wrenched this way and that.
As already mentioned, it is not the plot that jars – we are, after all, familiar with a thousand versions of this storyline on TV and in the movies – but the fact that the action is so stilted and the dialogue so halting. The publicists’ promise of “hilarious, rib-tickling” fun is simply not borne out as the film limps along.
The movie’s lack of flow and dynamism is only underlined by its colourful ending when a touch of Bollywood at last removes the dramatic shackles for a brief moment. If only there had been more of this.
The two stars, Parthiephal and Naicker, do their best with the material, but if you’re looking for impact, Mariam Bassa delights as the comically grumbling granny in the Kandasamy household in a cameo that’s straight out of The Golden Girls.
Keeping Up With The Kandasamys opened on March 3 at Gateway, Musgrave Centre, Suncoast, The Pavilion and Galleria. - Patrick Compton