It's not surprising that there's a cinematic vision of India outside of the ragtag beggars and servants in A Passage to India and Slumdog Millionaire or the fantasy heroes and their luscious lovers in outsize Bollywood romances. But sadly, it's rarely shown.
Indian director Umakanth Thumrugoti tries to make up for this with his feature debut, 7 Days in Slow Motion, a delightful, if uneven, family romp about a group of movie-obsessed preadolescents who decide to make their own film.
Thumrugoti, who returned to India for the movie after 14 years with Disney Animation, sets the English-language film not in the slums, but in the solidly middle-class, central Indian city of Hyderabad, home to a thriving digital and computer industry.
The film's narrator, the hyperactive, pint-size 10-year-old Ravi (Teja), is a typical upper-middle-class kid: He works hard at school, studies even harder at home, always obeys his parents, and keeps his room clean.
Typical?! Typical, that is, for this aspect of India.
As Ravi complains in the opening scene, his parents expect him to get into the best high school and best American Ivy League university, and to nab the best possible job. In one of the movie's many whimsical moments, he draws a pie chart of his daily activities: 60 percent for studying and just 2 percent for fun.
Fun for Ravi and his two best pals, Hamid (Kunal Sharma) and Onka (Shiva Varma), means movies. They're obsessed with them. Terminator, Titanic, Indecent Proposal, you name it, they've seen it.
They're equally entranced with the Bollywood diva Chand Ray, and when they find out she'll be in town in a week for a film festival, they vow to sneak in. Their wish comes true when they find an HD camera lost by an American film journalist: Why not get into the festival as filmmakers?
Ravi, the self-appointed director, buys a copy of Directing for Dummies but struggles to find a decent story to tell. The bulk of the film follows Ravi and his friends as they scramble to find actors, musicians (their film has to have dance numbers, of course!), and props.
The finished film is remarkable not for anything Ravi intends to do, but for the candid moments his camera picks up in between takes, including the story of Hamid's 17-year-old cousin, Saleha (Paru Gambhir), a bright student whose dreams of college are shattered when her parents arrange for her to marry a 40-year-old man who is a total stranger.
Thumrugoti's direction is nowhere near perfect: He overburdens the film with far too much melodrama, especially when he delves into social critique. Despite its flaws, 7 Days in Slow Motion is fun, family entertainment and an exuberant celebration of film.
Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org.