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UNINDIAN

SYNOPSIS: Meera (Tannishtha Chatterjee), beautiful divorcee and single mother of Smitha (Maya Sathi), is an Australian of Indian origin. Smart and independent, she has carved out a successful life for herself and her daughter, but is under family pressure to find 'a nice Indian match'. Then Meera meets Will (Brett Lee), tall and blond with a charming smile. But falling in love with an Australian man is not only scandalous - it's unindian!

Review by Louise Keller:
101 Dalmations has Twilight Barking; the world at large has CNN and UnIndian has The Indian Community Network (ICN), a hilariously depicted communication network in which the Indian Community at large projects and protects its own. ICN is one element of this likeable cross-cultural romcom in which Aussie English lessons, arranged marriages and how to date an Indian girl are some of the ingredients. The inaugural project of the Australia India Film Fund, first time director Anupam Sharma's film marries its lightweight aura with a flirtation of darker themes as issues of child custody are incorporated into the mix; the contrast of light and dark is not restricted to skin colour.

It's sweet and funny, upbeat and colourful as the complex, different worlds of a liberated Indian girl with old school parents cross with an emancipated, well-grounded Aussie who sees what he likes and likes what he sees.

We are first introduced to the world of Meera (Tannishtha Chatterjee, appealing), a single mother and successful businesswoman in the new home she shares with her daughter Smitha (Maya Sathi). Meera's well-meaning, interfering parents (Supriya Pathak Kapu, Akash Khurana) are especially amusing and the matchmaking scenes, when they orchestrate meetings with Samir (Nicholas Brown), an obnoxious but wealthy cardiologist, are very funny, if predictable. Thushy Sathi's script explores the plight of Indians in Australia who 'fall in the crack': not Australian enough, but equally not Indian enough anymore.

In his first acting role, cricketer Brett Lee does a fine job playing Will, the easy-going cricket and netball-loving UNSW teacher, whose novel class teaching new Australians slang and colloquialisms offers humorous dividends. There's a nice dynamic between the leads as Will pursues Meera, while Meera is reluctant as she worries about the impact on her daughter and the disapproval of her parents. I like the crazy energy of Will's world involving his flatmate TK (Arka Das), an irreverent cooking enthusiast and his constantly-eating, overweight friend Mich (Adam Dunn, hilarious).

The subplot of the budding relationship between TK and Will's attractive student Priya (Sarah Roberts, delightful) is great fun and Sathi shows maturity in her debut feature role as the little girl who fears losing her mother in the same way she lost her father. Watch out for director Sharma, who makes an appearance in the small role of Swami. The use of music is key and production values are excellent with Martin McGrath's cinematography showcasing Sydney beautifully.

As for the ICN, let's hope Sharma is able to use it to spread the word about this vibrant, feel good Aussie film that is liberally tinged with the enticing colours, tempos and rhythms of Bollywood.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Two Australian 'Romeo & Juliet' stories are being released in cinemas this month within a week of each other; in Unindian (October 15), an Indian single mum meets an Australian bloke, while in Alex and Eve (October 22), a young Lebanese Australian woman meets a Greek Australian chap - and in each case they encounter familial, social and traditional barriers.

Alex and Eve is a broad comedy, while Unindian is a naturalistic comedy, but with enough dramatic elements to give it texture and grip. The themes coincide perhaps because Australians are confronting their multicultural circumstances, while Australian filmmaking is broadening the canvas to explore these issues. Anupam Sharma was inspired by a line he heard in real life, which is well used in the film: '"Not Indian enough for India any more but not Aussie enough for Australia yet".

Made with evident enthusiasm and energy by Sharma, Unindian has a great deal going for it - in a couple of ways.

First, it is a well crafted entertainment, delivering on its promise as a romantic comedy, with some serious ballast, as it should be. The tone is just right. The screenplay provides credible if comical circumstances for the characters, and the cast relishes the chance to play with genuine emotions ... as well as for laughs. They all do it exceptionally well, not least 11 year old newcomer Maya Sathi as the daughter whose heart's wellbeing is pretty well at the centre of the romance between her mum and the new man in her life, played with likeable Australian warmth by Brett Lee. Lee plays a teacher helping foreign students learn Australian - expression and pronunciation. Very funny. What's more, Lee acts as well as he plays cricket, and is responsible for making the character work and for helping to make the film a success.

Second, Sharma and his producing partner Lisa Duff helped finance the film by commercial agreements with suppliers, who are given prominent roles in the film, including University of NSW, Destination NSW and Cochlea among others. They are written into the screenplay as real entities, and while purists may cringe, entrepreneurs will cheer. Emerging producers would do well to study Unindian for how it can be done without too much 'selling out' and enough 'selling'. (A little more tweaking would help further reduce the obvious sales pitches for a more subtle result, I suggest.)

The great talent in front of the camera is matched by talent behind it, ranging from cinematographer Martin McGrath to editor Marcus D'Arcy and production designer Tylah Pratt. To cap it all off, Sharma ends his Aussie film with a gloriously happy nod to Bollywood.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

UNINDIAN (M)
(Aust, 2015)

CAST: Brett Lee, Tannashita Chatterjee, Maya Sathi, Pallavi Sharda, Supriya Pathak Kapur, Akash Khurana, Gulshan Grover, John Howard, Arka Das, Sarah Roberts, Nicholas Brown, Adam Dunn, Tiriel Mora, Kumud Merani

PRODUCER: Anupam Sharma, Lisa Duff

DIRECTOR: Anupam Sharma

SCRIPT: Thushy Sathi

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Martin McGrath

EDITOR: Marcus D'Arcy

MUSIC: Salim Sulaiman (Salim Merchant & Suleiman Mercant), Amanda Brown

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tyler Pratt

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Friends India Entertainment

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 15, 2015

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