Movie Review: “Four Samosas” attempt a burglary in their corner of LA’s “Little India”

“Four Samosas” is a scruffy, hit or miss indie caper comedy about four young Indian Americans who set out to rob the store of a local grocer who’s gotten rich by illicit means.

It’s built on a generational angst, with a hint of cultural displacement, like a lot of Indian comedies set in North America. Writer-director Ravi Kapoor’s screenplay even references the slang acronym that became the title of one of the earliest movies in this vein — “ABCD” — which stands for “American Born Confused Deshi (person of Indian descent growing up here). “

Our hero, Vinny (Vek Potula), who runs a sari shop, is addressed thusly by his nemesis, Sanjay (Karan Soni of the “Deadpool” movies), who was born in India and has some sort of goat dung business there.

“Oh look, if it isn’t American Born Confused...Loser.”

Vinny has an American street argot sales patter, which does little for sari sales, but helps him in his real passion, writing and performing rap rhymes. It doesn’t help him enough to make him good at it.

He was dumped by the fair hairdresser/eyebrow threader Rina (Summer Bishil), which everyone he mentions this to reminds him was “three YEARS ago.”

Hey, “pain’s got its own clock.”

His buddy Zak (Nirvan Patnaik) runs a chaat shop, watches bad Bollywood movies and dreams of Bollywood stardom. Handsome Zak is lusted after by the “under over-achiever” Anjali (Sharmita Bhattacharya) who produces her own news brochure, The Great Little India Times, which she distributes all over Artesia, the chunk of Greater LA that’s west of Anaheim, south of LA proper.

The news that Rina is engaged to Sanjay sends Vinny into a tailspin, and he resolves to swipe the off-the-books diamonds Rina’s grocery store-owner dad (Tony Mirrcandani, a Republic of India Rip Torn) has stashed in a safe.

In classic caper comedy style, Vinny assembles his team, they don disguises and take their shot at precious jewel riches.

Indie comedies lean heavily on the Spike Lee’s Early Films model — random slices of neighborhood life and neighborhood characters decorate the seriously mundane plot.

A local “gang” of tracksuit wearing “revolutionaries” wants to declare their piece of the city The Free State of Aisetra, the 51st state and all Indian. A), “That’s Artesia spelled backwards,” Vinny points out. “And if I wanted to live in South Asia (the Indian subcontinent), I’d LIVE in South Asia!”

Many locals are all whipped up about an upcoming festival with a talent show in it. Vinny is brother-figure rapper to younger aspiring rapper cousin Nikki (Maya Kapoor), and seeks advice from a priest I take to be his father (writer-director Ravi Kapoor).

A more recent immigrant whom they recruit to help them crack the safe holding the diamonds is an Indian tech school alumna (Sonal Shah) bitter about not finding a US job and facing deporation.

The heist is visualized in fantasized classic heist movie tropes, but that sort of caper only happens in movies where four broke friends don’t have to worry about not having the money to do the job the way Tom Cruise would as Ethan Hunt.

The sources of comedy here include that colorful milieu, the oddballs who populate it and the way people with no special skills might attempt a burglary. There’s not quite enough of each on its own, but together all that adds up to a few laughs and plenty of chuckles. The picture kind of goes to pieces in the third act, but not before we’ve had a fantasized Bollywood production number — produced on the cheap — and lots of gags about haplessness, loserdom and goat feces.

These Four Samosas — the Indian potato appetizer is slang for a lot of things, including “ass” — get by on the their own ineptitude, and the fish-out-of-water clumsiness of transplanted people who don’t “fit in” any more than they need to, because it’d be a tragedy if they did.

Rating: PG-13, some profanity and “a rude gesture”

Cast: Venk Potula, Sharmita Bhattacharya, Sonal Shah, Nirvan Patnaik, Karan Soni, Tony Mirrcandani, Summer Bishil and Ravi Kapoor

Credits: Scripted and directed by Ravi Kapoor. An IFC release.

Running time: 1:20


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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