Basmati Blues is a musical and as far as musicals go, it’s certainly something alright.
Directed by Danny Baron from a screenplay co-written with Jeffrey Dorchen, the film stars Brie Larson, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Scott Bakula, Saahil Sehgal, with Tyne Daly and Donald Sutherland.
For an Oscar winner such as Larson, one may question her decision to take on this role after the success of Room but it’s a role that she shot before she won the trophy. In order to watch the musical and appreciate Larson for her talents, one has to take the factor into consideration. She makes the best of what she can with the material given to her but Larson can only do so much for the film in general.
Dr. Linda Watt (Larson) is a scientist who doesn’t own a passport and claims that she doesn’t even like to leave her own neighborhood when being assigned by the company CEO Gurgon (Sutherland) to take a trip to India. Before she knows it, she’s in representing Mogil Worldwide in Indiana. Watt becomes a fish-out-of-water in this country that’s unfamiliar to her. A young bureaucrat, William (Sehgal), is assigned to her as a guide and shortly develops an interest in her because this film wants to be serious but thinks there should also be a romantic relationship at stake.
It’s only when Linda meets college dropout Rajit (Ambudkar) in which the musical does its best to become a romantic comedy. Through getting to know Rajit and the villagers, she soon realizes that she’s just a pawn in the whole game plan. She helps the farmers by taking a stand against Mogil.
Basmati Blues doesn’t so much fail on the sake of its talent but in the way it was executed in general. Some subjects are best kept to a single genre. Baron and Dorchen make an attempt to tell a serious story, much in the way a documentary would make its audiences aware of an issue’s importance, in a way that fuses it with the Bollywood musical style. The single decision to do just that is what doomed Basmati Blues from the start. The cast nor musical contributions alone couldn’t save the film. There’s some catchy tunes but they don’t carry the film in the way Pasek and Paul have done so through their cinematic contributions over the past two years.
Pearl Jam, Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, Goldspot, Dave Baerwald, and Sonu Nigam contributed original music to the film. Rather than a single composer for the film, filmmakers opted for different musicians to represent Indian music and American, be it Broadway or pop music. Unfortunately, most of these tunes are largely forgettable. “All Signs Point To Yes”, written by Dan Mackenzie, is choreographed greatly and the song is catchy but it was one of the few.
There’s nothing wrong about sending the message of fighting corporate greed but it’s through execution of the material that ultimately fails Basmati Blues.
Shout! Studios will release Basmati Blues on February 9, 2018.