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With: Brie Larson, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Scott Bakula, Saahil Sehgal, Tyne Daly, Donald Sutherland, Lakshmi Manchu, Bugs Bhargava, Dalip Tahil, Suhasini Mulay
Written by: Dan Baron, Jeff Dorchen, Danny Thompson
Directed by: Dan Baron
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 106
Date: 02/09/2018

Basmati Blues (2018)

2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This attempt at an American-style Bollywood musical is earnest at best, and sappy, naïve, and saccharine at worst; it does have its lively moments, but it mainly inspires aggravation and eye-rolling.

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) — the rice is about to launch in a big way. But the company's salesman rubbed the locals in India the wrong way, jeopardizing the whole thing. So Gugon selects the wide-eyed, innocent Linda to go. There, she meets Rajit (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who briefly studied agriculture in college but was forced to leave due to lack fo funds.

Though he is attracted to Linda, he clashes with her over his more organic views on rice-growing. She also meets William (Saahil Sehgal), a well-dressed corporate shill for Gugron; he also falls for Linda's charms. But what Linda does not know is that once the farmers sign their Mogil contracts, they will be obligated to buy new seeds every year. Can Rajit convince her of the truth in time? And can he win her heart?

Basmati Blues has apparently been shelved for as many as five years, and recently unshelved only because of Brie Larson's newfound fame; it's one of those cases in which an actor may wish to erase their past. Larson is charming, and she can carry a tune — a musical number in a nightclub is a brief, joyful highlight — but her character 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 flatly embarrassing when Donald 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 dumb tourists. (The locals and farmers are seen as pure and exotic and life-loving.)

It's great, of course, to have a movie that frowns upon 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 one wonder where it all went wrong.

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