Chicken Tikka Masala
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Harmage Singh Kalirai
scr Roopesh Parekh
with Chris Bisson, Peter Ash, Sally Bankes, Saeed Jaffrey, Jamila Massey, Zohra Segal, Katy Clayton, Majinder Mahal, Sushil Chudasama, Harish Patel, Shobu Kapoor, Louisa Eyo
release UK 22.Apr.05
05/UK 1h30

The happy groom: Bisson and family

bisson ash jaffrey


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Chicken Tikka Masala The random title of this comedy apparently wants to evoke a spicy mixture of East and West. And the film is certainly spicy. But it's also strangely timid about dealing with the issues it raises.

The story centres on the Chopras, a Hindu family in Preston. Only son Jimi (Bisson) has moved out, while Mum and Dad (Massey and Jaffrey) live with his feisty grandmother (Segal). Now it's suddenly time for Jimi's arranged marriage to Simran (Mahal), but he's actually living with his boyfriend Jack (Ash), along with Jack's moody sister Vanessa (Bankes) and her precious daughter (Clayton). So Jimi concocts a series of increasingly dangerous lies to conceal the truth.

We know from the start that it'll all work out in the end. This is a comedy, after all, and even a few strong dramatic scenes can't disguise this. We also know that Jimi's parents are extremely reasonable people, so his ceaseless efforts to throw them off the scent feel horribly cruel and illogical. If he doesn't want to lose his family by telling them the truth, why spin an elaborate lie that's just as alienating?

In addition, the filmmakers seem reluctant to really explore the themes. The relationship between Jimi and Jack is virtually invisible--they rarely look at each other and have virtually no physical contact. Frankly, it doesn't even look like a particularly close friendship! The only reason it works at all is because Bisson and Ash are very engaging actors. But the real star of the film is Bankes, who dares break the rom-com mould by reacting like a normal person would if forced into this kind of charade. Her fury, drunkenness and grumpiness are the funniest and most authentic things about the film.

In the end, this is a lively family comedy about pressures, culture clashes, loyalties--the usual stuff, and without much edge to it. Kalirai directs with a lively visual style, and the dialog is often hilariously manic. When it all gets suddenly serious at the end, it feels both superficial and simplistic. Sweet and touching, but essentially just silly.

cert 15 themes, language, innuendo 15.Mar.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Chicken Tikka Masala iram rani, oldham: 5/5 "i think chicken tikka masala is a wicked film. i like that bit when the groom gets married and all the house is decorated!" (3.May.05)
2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall