One might wonder why a movie, whose central premise is President George W. Bush’s visit to India, was released after he left the office. But as an Indian American, I was glad to have the distance and be free to laugh at the mockery this movie makes of our last President, glad to have woken up from the nightmare of the last 8 years.
The President is Coming(TPIC) is a clever little movie made in the style of a “mockumentary”, like NBC’s The Office. W made a trip to India in 2006, badly in need of some TLC from one of the few countries in the world where he was still a Big Man on Campus. In India his ego, much bruised from the fiascoes of Iraq and Katrina, was assured of the balm of sycophancy. While there were a few protests here and there, he received a royal reception in official circles, the kind only a post-colonial nation with a Raj hangover can offer.
Writer Anuvab( no that’s not a typo) Pal’s fancy was tickled by all the hype and hoopla surrounding that visit, and he set out to imagine a scenario where the 43rd President, in his trademark stubbornness, gets it into his head that he needs to shake a “Young Indian’s” hand. This leads to a frenzy over which “Young Indian” is to be chosen. In true reality TV style, 6 finalists from various social and cultural strata are chosen to be trained and assessed to compete for the awesome prize of shaking W’s hand.
The finalists are, in no particular order, a Bengali intellectual, a Gujarati stockbroker, a Marathi social worker( a graduate of IIM Ahmedabad, no less!), a call center manager, a rich Paris Hilton like socialite and a techie from Bangalore. they each have their own eccentric reason for wanting to shake hands with the President; as the story progresses, we discover more and more about them.
Yes, the characters are stereotypes, but these are different from the ones we usually see on screen and the humor is biting. I laughed out loud at several moments in the movie, even when the comedy descended to sophomoric levels( this reviewer though Harold and Kumar at White Castle was hilarious).
The entire movie feels like a college skit( same level of raunchiness) but it it still very very funny. The only recognizable actor is Konkona Sen Sharma as Maya Roy, the intellectual whose superciliousness and ability to quote poetry impress the heck out of Samantha Patel( Shernaz Patel) whose agency has the job of selecting the hand-shaker. But everybody else turns in very fine performances too. Satchit Puranik as the reverse snob Ajay Karlekar( ha!) is terrific as he expresses bigotry towards women, Muslims, rich people, and just about everybody else.
The characters are all slightly overdrawn and veer towards caricature but the script makes up for it. Kunaal Kapur’s direction stays true to the smart script, which exposes the varied neuroses coexisting peacefully in India.
Worth a watch.
The President is coming
*ring – Konkona Sen Sharma, Shernaz Patel,
Written by Anuvab Pal
My rating – 3 stars out of 5.