Basmati Blues

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Basmati Blues Movie Poster Image
Too-sweet, naïve Bollywood-style musical has some romance.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 106 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Warns us to watch out for corporations that claim to have the best interests of regular people at heart but really don't -- some can be more interested in profits than people.

Positive role models & representations

Linda isn't a very strong role model, but Rajit's character, despite being argumentative and angry, winds up helping everyone in the end with his organic, non-processed way of farming. The Indian characters don't feel authentic; they seem oversimplified through a Westernized gaze.

Violence

Some arguing and temper tantrums. A character is jailed and placed in a straitjacket.

Sex

A kiss. Flirting. An unseen character is referred to as an adulterer (had an affair with the mayor's wife).

Language

Uses of "damn," "ass," "hell," and "screwed the pooch."

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Reference to an unseen character who drank too much.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Basmati Blues is an American attempt at a Bollywood-style musical. It villainizes corporations but is fluffy and silly otherwise, if also a bit overly sweet and naive, with a main character who's unfortunately rather clueless. On the up side, there's very little iffy material to worry about. Characters argue and have temper tantrums, and one is jailed and placed in a straitjacket. Language includes rare uses of "damn," "hell," "ass," and "screwed." Characters flirt, kiss, and eventually marry. An unseen character is referred to as a "drunken adulterer." It's worth noting that the movie's Indian characters don't feel authentic; they seem oversimplified through a Westernized gaze (i.e., the locals and farmers are shown as pure, exotic, and life-loving). The movie was shelved for a while but dusted off thanks to the popularity of star Brie Larson.

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What's the story?

In BASMATI BLUES, scientist Linda (Brie Larson) has invented a new kind of super rice. With the help of corporation Mogil -- run by CEO Gurgon (Donald Sutherland) -- her rice is about to launch in a big way. But it turns out the company's salesman rubbed the locals in India the wrong way, jeopardizing the whole thing. So Gurgon selects wide-eyed, innocent Linda to go sort everything out. There, she meets Rajit (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who briefly studied agriculture in college but was forced to leave school due to lack of funds. Though he's attracted to Linda, Rajit clashes with her over his more organic views on rice growing. She also meets William (Saahil Sehgal), a well-dressed corporate shill for Gurgon; he, too, falls for Linda's charms. But what Linda doesn't know is that once the farmers sign their Mogil contracts, they'll be obligated to buy new seeds every year. Can Rajit convince Linda of the truth in time? And can he win her heart?

Is it any good?

This attempt at an American-style Bollywood musical is earnest at best and sappy, naïve, and overly sweet at worst. It does have lively moments, but it mainly inspires aggravation and eye-rolling. Basmati Blues was apparently shelved for several years, only resurfacing because of Larson's growing fame; it's one of those cases in which an actor might wish they could erase the past. Yes, Larson is charming and can carry a tune -- a musical number set in a nightclub is a brief, joyful highlight -- but Linda is so easily fooled and pushed around that it's difficult to believe she's a brilliant scientist.

The songs are instantly forgettable, and it's frankly embarrassing when Sutherland and Tyne Daly are asked to step in and sing a villainous tune. As for the Indian characters, it's difficult to view them as authentic; they seem filtered through the Westernized views of uninformed tourists. (The locals and farmers are portrayed as pure, exotic, and life-loving.) It's great, of course, to have a movie that frowns on corporate greed and the preference for profit over the good of the people, but Basmati Blues is just so ridiculous. When the bad guys try to escape via a train, it just makes you wonder where it all went wrong.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Basmati Blues' main character. Is she a strong role model? Is she allowed to be independent? Does she make decisions on her own? Is she easily persuaded or dissuaded by men?

  • What does the movie have to say about corporations? Which real-life corporations can you think of that do care about their customers?

  • How does the movie depict sex and romance? How does it compare to other movies you've seen in that respect?

  • Does the movie depict Indian characters fairly? Are they positive representations? Are they realistic representations?

  • How does the movie work as a musical? What's the appeal of musicals?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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