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Film Review: ‘For Here or to Go?’

A Mumbai-born Silicon Valley software whiz battles byzantine immigration rules and his own conflicting emotions about where he belongs.

Cast:
Ali Fazal, Melanie Kannokada, Rajit Kapur, Amitosh Nagpal, Omi Vaidya, Samrat Chakrabarti. (English, Hindi dialogue)

 

The challenges faced by immigrants and the battle over healthcare lend renewed relevance to the premise of “For Here or to Go?” which bears a 2015 copyright date yet directly addresses these and other hot-button issues of the day. Brightly amiable while not particularly urgent, this handsomely made U.S. indie opens regionally March 31. Including both English and Hindi dialogue, the film will speak most effectively to apprehensive immigrants caught between uncertain Stateside status and cultural displacement.

It’s 2008, the recession has just hit, and, in the heart of Silicon Valley earnest young tech worker Vivek Pandit (Ali Fazal) has a problem. After seven years of hard work for a company to which he’s not emotionally invested, he’s about to land a plum position at a healthcare start-up by virtue of innovative software he’s written. Unfortunately, the would-be entrepreneur has neglected his immigration paperwork, and when the company finds out he has less than a year left on his visa, it backs away from hiring him.

Vivek has other issues as well, chief among them an alarming parade of townhouse roommates that include confident Sam (Samrat Chakrabarti), conflicted gay co-worker Lakshmi (Omi Vaidya), flaky Amit (Amitosh Nagpal) and a mysterious weekend visitor who lands them on the FBI’s watch list.

Vivek’s tensions are eased somewhat by recent law-school grad Shweta (Melanie Kannokada), whom he meets at a Bollywood speed-dating event. Their courtship is highlighted, fittingly, by a town square flash-mob dance number called “There’s a Party on the Dance Floor.”

Adding some gravitas is Shweta’s author father Vishwanath Prabhu (Rajit Kapur), who exhorts talented Indians to return home to make their fortunes, even though the advice clashes with the goals of his Stateside business partner Raj Mehta (Keith Stevenson).

Writer-producer Rishi S. Bhilawadikar’s too-busy script nevertheless scores legitimate points about the complexities and paradoxes of the visa application process, the resulting limbo in which many legitimately productive immigrants find themselves, and other frustrating and soul-searching issues facing ethnic communities. Given the set-up, Vivek’s eventual fate, inspired by advice from an unlikely savior, plays as anti-climactic.

Director Rucha Humnabadkar (who has a cameo as a TV presenter) and DP Tristan Nyby caught their numerous Northern California locations on particularly sunny days, matching the dispositions of the pleasant but not overly strident leads.

Film Review: 'For Here or to Go?'

Reviewed online, Sydney, March 29, 2017. Running time: 105 MIN.

Production: A Many Cups of Chai release, presentation and production. Producers: Vineet Sinha, CC Chainey, Rucha Humnabadkar, Rishi S. Bhilawadikar. Executive producers: Jayan Ramankutty, Vibha Jayan, Anil Sippy, Ketan Humnabadkar, Aaron Sakowski, Niket Biswas, Roger Wang, Deepak Ravindran. Co-producers: Radhika Reddy, Ashish Sharma, Shaheen Gandhi.

Crew: Director: Rucha Humnabadkar. Screenplay: Rishi S. Bhilawadikar. Camera (color): Tristan Nyby. Editor: Abhijit Deshpande.

With: Ali Fazal, Melanie Kannokada, Rajit Kapur, Amitosh Nagpal, Omi Vaidya, Samrat Chakrabarti. (English, Hindi dialogue)

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