SXSW Review – Finding Love in ‘A Nice Indian Boy’

SXSW Review – Finding Love in ‘A Nice Indian Boy’
Credit: David Bukach

Who doesn’t want to find the perfect person to spend their life with and have a dream wedding? That desire can be complicated by factors like family and cultural traditions, which may not, for instance, be nearly as accepting of two men getting married as they are of a groom kissing his bride. A Nice Indian Boy offers a delightfully awkward, humorous, and uplifting take on the topic, following its Indian-American protagonist as he embarks on his first truly serious relationship that will have to be strong enough to survive his family.

Naveen (Karan Soni) is first seen at the wedding of his sister Arundhathi (Sunita Mani), where everyone keeps telling him he’s next and all he can think about is how he wants the same thing that his sister has found: a nice Indian boy. The nervous doctor is surprised to meet Jay (Jonathan Groff), a freelance photographer who was adopted by Indian parents. After they connect, things are going well until Jay realizes that Naveen is holding back from introducing him to his parents Megha (Zarna Garg) and Archit (Harish Patel), who know their son is gay but have never actually met one of his boyfriends.

A Nice Indian Boy comes from director Roshan Sethi, Soni’s real life-partner who expressed a mixture of disbelief and joy that he wasn’t yet out six years ago and now had his mother there with him at this film’s SXSW world premiere. Sethi and Soni last collaborated on the script for the pandemic-set romantic comedy 7 Days, with Sethi directing and Soni starring opposite Geraldine Viswanathan, and it’s wonderful to see them back together again, working from a screenplay by Eric Randall based on the play by Madhuri Shekar.

What may be funniest about this film is its presentation of stereotypes acted out by Naveen’s parents, punctuated by the way in which both he and Arundhathi respond to them. They almost know what to expect each time and in some cases don’t even let them say what they’re about to, bracing themselves for the worst and acting preemptively to avoid being insulted. Arundhathi is particularly furious about how apparently accepting her parents now seem about Naveen’s choice to date a white guy after pushing her so much to get married and then asking every time she comes over whether she’s pregnant yet.

It’s endearing in this comedy to see the attempts that Megha and Archit make to try to understand their son, which probably aren’t as effective as actually being curious about his day-to-day life would be. Megha describing the plot of Milk over the phone to Naveen is one such instance, as is their regular viewing of OUTtv to see just what it is that might interest their son. While surely exaggerated, this type of behavior does seem quite realistic, well-intentioned but just slightly missing the mark.

Soni is a talented actor who excels at showing his physical discomfort with situations, and that serves him well in this role, especially opposite Groff, who during their first date begins singing a song from a famous Indian movie on the street. Soni and Groff have great chemistry, though Jay feels like the least developed character in the film, which may be fitting given that it’s not really about him. Mani and Patel are great as always, and it’s particularly impressive to see renowned comedian Garg make an excellent acting debut. This film is highly enjoyable, capturing the specifics of one culture in a way that will please those who know it well and remind anyone else of their own heritage and traditions. 

Grade: B+

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

A Nice Indian Boy makes its world premiere in the Narrative Spotlight section at the 2024 SXSW Film and TV Festival.

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