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Exclusive party for India's hip, assimilated crowd

September 05, 2003|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

"Where's the Party, Yaar?" is too corny and drawn-out to appeal to crossover audiences but may strike a nerve in Indian communities. Fueled by a hard-driving, eclectic score, it is a broad, raucous comedy about a graduate student, Hari (Sunil Malhotra), who arrives in Houston for further studies, staying with friends of his parents who live in an upscale tract crammed with grandiose overbuilt houses, proof that they have made it in contemporary America. ("Yaar" roughly translates as "dude.")

Director Benny Mathews and his writers are too square to satirize nouveau riche immigrant taste but do set their sights on a worthier target, the often nakedly cruel discrimination practiced by Indian American young people who consider their fresh-off-the-boat contemporaries too nerdy to attend their parties. Hari is smart, good-looking and cheerful, but his singsong speech patterns, unstylish clothes and uncool demeanor pose a problem for his hosts' son Mohan (Kal Penn), a slacker as a student but solidly entrenched socially.

Looming large on Mohan's social calendar is a huge Desi Fever dance party, which he is helping Ray (Prem Shah), a radio disc jockey show producer, promote. Not since 19th century social arbiter Ward McAllister decreed that New York society was composed of the 400 (the number of people Caroline Astor's ballroom could accommodate) has there been so merciless a snob as Ray; he even bars the playing of music from India at his party. With all the advance hubbub for the event, Mohan has an impossible task in trying to prevent Hari from hearing about it, provoking a crisis between the two seeming friends.

There's some silly business about an astrologer back home in India predicting signs that romance is in the offing for Hari, some affectionate spoofing of a friend of Hari's who shares a shagadelic pad with other nerds, and a lot of other good-natured but largely inane nonsense. Through all this, Penn and Malhotra display unflagging energy and focus; both are talented young actors clearly capable of more sophisticated fare. Much less is demanded of Serena Varghese and Tina Cherian, but they are poised and beautiful. "Where's the Party, Yaar?" looks good but overstays its welcome.


'Where's the Party, Yaar?'

MPAA rating: Unrated

Times guidelines: Suitable family fare

Sunil Malhotra...Hari

Kal Penn...Mohan

Prem Shah...Ray

Serena Varghese...Janvi

Tina Cherian...Priya

A Music Masala Films presentation. Director Benny Mathews. Producer Sunil Thakkar. Executive producers Sandhya Thakkar, Farid Virani, Asha Virani. Screenplay by Thakkar, Mathews and Soham Mehta. Editor Shimit Amin. Music Panjabi MC, Rukus Avenue, Cheb-I-Sabbah, RDB, Bikram Singh, Navdeep, Cornershop, Outcaste DJs, MC Metz and Trix, Swaraj. Production designer Randy Cole. Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes.

Exclusively at the ArcLight, Sunset and Vine, (323) 464-4226; and the Lakewood Center Stadium 16, Faculty and Candlewood, Lakewood, (562) 531-9580 or (310) 777-FILM, No. 046.

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