Sunday, March 29, 2020

‘Growing Up Smith’ recreates a 1970’s Indian American childhood, with comedy

Growing Up Smith is the rare film that succeeds on almost every level, where each character and joke firing on all cylinders to make a film worth repeated viewings.

The year is 1979 and immigrant Hindu parents Bhaaskar (Anjul Nigam, Grey’s Anatomy) and Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan, The Night Of) decide to bring their family to make the move from India to the United States. The Bhatnagars are the first Indian family in this standard, middle-class neighborhood.

Smith, a name given to the youngest in the family because his father wanted him to have the most American name possible, is as awkward a tween as they come. Being new to the area – Smith tries to fit in. He is off to a good start until he is singled out by the local bullies for torment.

The 10-year-old boy attempts to both embrace his new country’s lifestyle but still maintain ties to his native land’s culture and traditions.

A charming girl who lives across the street and finds every bit of the Bhatnagar family’s eccentricity utterly involving. On the contrary, Smith finds everything about her lifestyle fascinating.

Smith’s father, Anjul Nigam, also co-wrote the screenplay and explained that much of it is “based on stories from my own life — my own family, who experienced similar circumstances to what the characters experience in the film.”

“I don’t think we have as much trouble today both honoring our heritage and being happy to be Americans,” Anjul Nigam said. “You have to understand that, back in the late ’70s, especially in small towns in the U.S., many if not most of those people had never even seen an Indian person — except maybe on TV or in the movies.”

The film is set to hit theaters Feb. 3, 2017.

Synopsis

Growing Up Smith is the feel-good, coming-of-age story of Smith, a 10-year-old boy from India growing up in Small Town, America in 1979. As the boy’s family tries to straddle the line between embracing the American Dream and persevering their Indian heritage, Smith sneaks out for a taste of Kentucky Fried Chicken, dons a “‪Saturday Night‬ Fever” costume, and contends with his parents as they send him to school with a yellow squash instead of a pumpkin to carve for Halloween. And as Smith falls head over heels in love with Amy, the girl next door, he finds in Amy’s father, Butch, the all-American cowboy he wishes his own father could be.

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