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Loins of Punjab Presents 

Wednesday, Nov 5 2008
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The zany incomprehensibility of the title should serve as fair warning of the quirkfest to come in neophyte filmmaker Manish Acharya's Loins of Punjab Presents. Ready to rock the South Asian community over the course of one weekend in New Jersey, "Desi Idol" — sponsored by the film's eponymous meat wholesalers — will bestow $25,000 and local prestige upon the winner of the talent competition. Imagining itself a stereotype-smashing, Bollywood-spirited send-up of American Idol culture, the movie is, in actuality, a by-the-numbers comedy in cross-cultural clothing. Not to suggest that the largely Indian cast is nothing to celebrate or that Acharya's attempt lacks heart: From the actress rejected by a casting agent looking for someone "more Indian," to the unemployed futures analyst whose job has been outsourced to India, to a turbaned rapper mistaken for a terrorist, each contestant's story elucidates the ethnic and national tensions regularly encountered by Indian-Americans. But the glibness of these explorations leaves little doubt that the director wants us to walk away with a case of the warm fuzzies rather than a deeper understanding of assimilation. When the cuddliness factor even extends to the characterization of an elderly white couple convinced that every brown-skinned person they meet might bomb the place, you know Punjab has issues that need resolving.

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Kristi Mitsuda

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