Dir: Ian Iqbal Rashid. UK-Canada. 2004. 91mins.
The latest entry in the canon of colourful Indian-diaspora comedies after Bend It Like Beckham, The Guru and Bollywood/Hollywood, Touch Of Pink is a notable directorial debut from UK TV writer and poet Ian Iqbal Rashid. Oozing charm and a genuine joie de vivre which was lacking in those last two mentioned titles, it had audiences at Sundance (where it played in Premieres) cheering and closed a domestic distribution deal with Sony Pictures Classics.
But unlike Beckham, Touch Of Pink is not a prime candidate for a big breakout since it's a gay movie, exploring the repression of homosexuality in the Indian community, as well as more commonplace gay themes like coming out and casual sex. As Mambo Italiano recently proved, crowd-pleasing gay films have trouble extending far beyond the gay audience niche. Straight audiences would rather see My Big Fat Greek Wedding - or Beckham.
Nevertheless, Mambo Italiano also proved that, if effectively rallied, a well-made feelgood gay movie has the power to deliver significant grosses: Mambo, for example, grossed a total of $6.25m in the US and $3.8m in its native Canada.
Taking the lead role in Touch Of Pink is the effortlessly engaging Jimi Mistry, a busy actor whose charismatic presence has already been felt in culture clash comedies East Is East and The Guru. Here he plays Alim, a young Indian-Canadian living in London with his handsome boyfriend Giles (Holden-Ried), but who is so caught up in the romance of old movies that he thinks he is also living with the spirit of Cary Grant.
Herein lies Rashid's big narrative risk: this imaginary reincarnation of Grant, as played by Kyle MacLachlan, is a conceit which feels redundant in an otherwise satisfying screenplay; the ruse adds a faint whiff of embarrassment to the whole venture and critical response will be more hesitant because of it.
Alim's life begins to unravel when his overbearing widowed mother Nuru (Mathew makes for a formidable bossy mum) arrives from Toronto to find him a Muslim girlfriend and persuade him to come home for the wedding of his cousin Khaled (Bhaneja).
Pretending that Giles is just his room-mate, Alim manages to get through the visit, but Giles is furious that Alim cannot come out to his mother and, after she leaves, the two fight and separate. While Giles runs off into the arms of a hunky swimmer, the unhappy Alim flies to Toronto for the wedding where he has to confront the illusions of his life - from Cary Grant to his closetedness to the secrets in his own family.
The use of dual locations London and Toronto, which could have seemed UK/Canada co-production contrivance, is not intrusive here. Rashid focuses more on the characters than cities and cinematographer David Makin keeps the images vibrant on both sides of the Atlantic.
And even though he's a plot trick which is both obvious and superfluous, hats off to MacLachlan who effects as impressive an impersonation of Cary Grant as Rashid could have hoped for.
Prod cos: Sienna Film, Martin Pope Productions
US dist: Sony Pictures Classics
Int'l sales: Alliance Atlantis Pictures International
Prods: Jennifer Kawaja, Julia Sereny
DoP: David Makin
Prod des: Gavin Mitchell
Mus: Andrew Lockington
Ed: Susan Maggi
Main cast: Jimi Mistry, Kyle MacLachlan, Suleka Mathew, Kristen Holden-Ried, Brian George, Veena Sood, Raoula Bhaneja