REVIEW: “Four Samosas” (2022)

Part heist movie and part romantic comedy, “Four Samosas” is a low-budget screwball romp in the spirit of early Wes Anderson but with a sneakily infectious personality all its own. It all flows from writer-director Ravi Kapoor who infuses this whimsically toned indie with all sorts of narrative and visual quirks. Better yet, the often hysterically precise writing serves up some really big laughs. And its hard not to love the playful energy that flows out of every pore of this meager yet oh so clever little gem.

While the Anderson influence can be seen everywhere (the storytelling, the endearing collection of goofball characters, the distinct camera choices, the saturated color palette, even some red tracksuits ala “The Royal Tenenbaums”), “Four Samosas” still manages to feel like its own movie. Kapoor gives us an unashamedly farcical culture comedy with a unique, hard to resist energy that makes it easy to look past its limitations. Sure, it’s undeniably frothy and the budget constraints are impossible to miss. But Kapoor shows himself to be a crafty filmmaker, playing around with genre while diving into and having fun with his Indian heritage and traditions.

Image Courtesy of IFC Films

Set in Artesia, California in a part of town known as “Little India”, the film opens with the camera locked onto Juneja’s Supermarket. Suddenly four robbers sporting disguises too absurd to describe burst out that front doors and tear off across the parking lot. It’s a heist, but had they pulled it off or had it gone bad? Well, the title screen gives us our answer. The words “Four Samosas” is literally followed by “and the ill advised grocery store heist”. ‘Nuff said.

From there we bounce back a few days where we’re introduced to Vinny (Venk Potula), an underachieving yet infinitely likable aspiring rapper who sells garments at a saree shop. Vinny is still having a hard time getting over being dumped by his ex-girlfriend Rina (Summer Bishil) some three years ago. “Pains got its own clock,” he waxes not-so-philosophically. Now he gets wind that Rina’s engaged to marry Sanjay (Karan Soni), an air-headed entrepreneur set to make his fortune in the field of goat poop (yep, you read that right).

In an effort to ruin the wedding, a heartbroken and revenge-fueled Vinny hatches a plan – an utterly ridiculous and doomed-to-fail plan, but a plan nonetheless. He’s going to break into the grocery store owned by Rina’s father (Tony Mirrcandani) and steal a pickle jar full of “dirty” diamonds. To pull it off he recruits three equally oblivious cohorts: his best friend and Bollywood dreamer Zak (Nirvan Patnaik), the chatterbox Anjali (Sharmita Bhattacharya) who publishes her own neighborhood newspaper, and Paru (Sonal Shah), a neurotic malcontent who may or may not have safe-cracking skills.

Image Courtesy of IFC Films

From there the story steadily gains momentum, only slowing down for brief chapter breaks. And the humor just gets funnier and funnier with Kapoor pulling as many laughs from his camera as from his script. It’s shot on location and full of local Indian flavor which makes the setting bubble with life. And it’s full of cultural references and inside jokes that’s sure to resonate and amuse some more than others. Me, as someone who loves these neighborhoods slice of life movies, I ate it all up.

While the film’s tight 80-minute runtime ensures it doesn’t overstay its welcome, it also leaves a few things undercooked. For example, the supporting characters aren’t given much in terms of depth, and there’s the barely scratched relationship between Vinny and his (kinda) estranged father (played by Kapoor). But if you’re okay with the film’s openly mindless free-wheeling spirit (I was), you’ll find a lot to like in this charming and consistently funny jaunt. “Four Samosas” is now available on VOD.


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