Global Indian origin actors Pallavi Sharda (“Tom & Jerry,” “Lion”) and Suraj Sharma (“Life of Pi,” “How I Met Your Father”) star in Netflix romantic comedy “Wedding Season,” directed by “Shanghai Noon” and “Showtime” filmmaker Tom Dey.
Variety has secured access to an exclusive clip from the film, which is produced by Imagine Entertainment, in association with Jax Media and Samosa Stories. The lead producer is Samosa’s Swati Shetty, who previously had senior management stints with Imagine, Netflix and Disney India and produced “Umrika,” starring Sharma, which won awards at Sundance, Palm Springs and Cairo.
As a studio executive, Shetty shepherded Disney India’s first live action film “Do Dooni Char,” and Netflix’s “Love Per Square Foot,” “Rajma Chawal” and “Lust Stories.” “All these were films that I pushed for and championed from the studio side — so clearly, this is not the first in that sense,” Shetty told Variety. “I love these kinds of films. Love is a universal emotion. Everybody connects with love, everybody lives for love, which is one of the reasons these films become more mainstream and more accessible to the audience.”
In the film, pressured by their parents to find spouses, Indian Americans Asha (Sharda) and Ravi (Sharma) pretend to date in order to survive a summer of weddings — but find themselves falling for each other as they struggle to balance who they are with who their parents want them to be. It is written by Shiwani Srivastava, who was runner-up at the 2018 ScreenCraft Comedy Screenplay Competition. Ryan M. Murphy and John Rhodes brought the script to Netflix, who reached out to Shetty. After a few months of development, the project was greenlit in early 2020.
For Srivastava, growing up swooning over romantic comedies like “When Harry Met Sally” and “Notting Hill” soon led to the questions, “Where are the romantic leads who look like me and share my problems? Where’s our brown Bridget Jones?” “I waited for that movie all through my twenties until I got fed up and thought, ‘I’m going to write the movie I want to see’,” said Srivastava.
Srivastava’s sentiments are echoed by the cast. “Growing up, other than Bollywood, I never got to see Indians in cinema, and hence consumed huge amounts of western centric media, leaving my sense of self, in regards to global culture, skewed and lost,” said Sharma. ” ‘Wedding Season’ is part of a much larger movement aimed at balancing global culture and giving a voice to the many minorities that make up the majority of the people of the world.”
Sharda said, “The film gives out all the feels with the added layer of hilarious cultural nuance — I think it’s a brilliant blueprint for the inevitable exploration of diasporic experiences which are finally on their way to being understood and normalized.”
Srivastava added: “There are so many tropes in Hollywood romantic comedies that have been told and retold over the years — love triangles, fake dating, mistaken identities, sham marriages. These stories are begging to be modernized from diverse points of view with their unique characters and conflicts. Hopefully ‘Wedding Season’ is just part of the first wave in a sea of projects like this.”
Dey, who read the script in early 2020, says he knew little about Indian culture beyond what he’d learned from his two adopted nieces from Mumbai and was looking forward to a deep dive into Indian wedding culture in New Jersey where the film was originally supposed to shoot. But COVID-19 put paid to those plans and he ended up having to do all his research online while in lockdown in Toronto, binge-watching Netflix’s “The Big Day” and documentaries like “Meet the Patels.”
“During the casting and hiring process I was surprised by the number of South Asians who expressed how thankful they were that a film like this was being made, whether they ended up getting hired or not,” said Dey. “There was this sense of an opportunity to be seen and heard in a way that doesn’t happen very often in mainstream movies. People would become emotional about that.”
Shetty added, “I hope people connect with a new culture that’s introduced to them. I think what makes it interesting for people who are not born into it, is they are being introduced to a culture that’s so removed from their own. And it is fun, in a very different way.”
“Wedding Season” streams from August 4.
Watch the exclusive clip here: