Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Upstarts Movie Poster Image
Indian tech guys start a business; mature themes, language.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 112 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Friendship is extremely important. Don't lose your principles when you're offered a lot of money. People who seem to have it all can suddenly lose it all. Listen to all opinions but make your own decisions. The tech world is still male-dominated, and worthy, talented women are being sidelined.

Positive Role Models

Kapil is driven to succeed but also to do good in the world. When he achieves success in the process, he loses his bearings and makes some iffy decisions. Instead of running off to elope, a woman supposedly in love with her poor boyfriend chooses to stay with her rich father.


A man considers suicide. A man dies because he couldn't get the right medication. Someone receives a Parkinson's diagnosis. A man threatens others with a gun.


"S--t," "crap," "bastard," "piss," "hell," "d--k," and "ass."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man suffers from alcoholism. Adults drink and smoke cigarettes. An heir to a cigarette empire tries to make up for the unhealthy source of his wealth.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Upstarts follows a young Indian entrepreneur who wants to do well in life and also do good in the world by creating a tech startup with his college roommates and best friends. The three explore what it means to follow their passions, how to maintain integrity in the face of the corrupting force of big money, and the true importance of friendship. Language includes "s--t," "ass," "d--k," and "bastard." Adults smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. One character develops severe alcoholism and depression. One character runs a suicide hotline app. A man dies because he couldn't get the right medication. Someone receives a Parkinson's diagnosis. A man threatens others with a gun. Extreme poverty in remote Indian villages is a featured issue.

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What's the story?

UPSTARTS follows Kapil (Priyanshu Painyuli), Vinay (Shadab Kamal), and Yash (Chandrachoor Rai), three college roommates all trying to brainstorm tech startups. While volunteering in a poor, remote Indian village, Kapil sees a man die because no one locally had a medication that could've saved his life. Out of that is born Karry Karo, an Uber-like phone app that supplies medications for delivery by ordinary people who are already heading toward the remote villages that need the meds. Kapil persuades Yash and Vinay to bring their tech skills to the company as partners. All goes well until Kapil takes investment money from Veer (Rajeev Siddhartha), the jet-setting son of a wealthy cigarette maker. Veer is slick and less interested in the do-good potential of the company than he is in scaling it into a huge moneymaker that can be sold. He forces Kapil to make choices that prioritize profit and ignore the startup's original mission, a division that is losing money. Kapil's friends urge him to maintain his integrity, but yearning for success, he sides with Veer and almost loses his friends. When Veer ousts Kapil from his leadership post, he regains his principles.    

Is it any good?

This is an engaging, feel-good story in which integrity conquers greed. It's filled with pithy advice ("in a startup, hope is everything" and "banks aren't your buddies") and observations -- relatively young guys with cutting-edge training find their skills quickly outdated in a fast-moving tech world. And it tries to reveal some of the real ups and downs of entrepreneurship, even as it delivers a fictional entertainment. When do committed entrepreneurs quit their day jobs and devote all their energies to the new project? Is the complete truth necessary when courting venture capitalists? Characters in Upstarts wrestle with these and other practical and ethical matters, making this a thoughtful piece even as it drags on perhaps a tad too long. But performances by good actors compensate, as they convincingly portray people who have flaws but remain fundamentally decent and well-intentioned.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way that people with the best intentions can lose their way when money enters the picture. How does money seem to affect the main characters in Upstarts?

  • Why do you think Jaya has trouble getting funding for her suicide prevention app? She thinks it's related to being a woman in the largely male-dominated tech world. Do you agree? Why?

  • Do you think friends should have done more to help a character who develops an alcohol problem? What are some steps they might have taken?

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