Published August 1, 2007
There is more depth and sorcery in Sandhya Suri’s I for India, a mini-budget film proving that a talented director can lift himself up by the shoestrings. In this case, herself. A graduate from Britain’s National Film School, Suri has assembled her father’s home movie footage, added family interviews and created a picture of cultural displacement and Anglo-Indian rapprochement almost worthy of EM Forster.
The Suri family came to Darlington, northern England, in 1965 and sank roots into the immigrant community and local hospital, where dad was a consultant doctor. The cry of the homeland, orchestrated by clan elders, persuaded them back to India for a trial stay. But dad, setting up his medical shingle, was beaten to the punch by the traditional street quacks offering snake oils. They returned to England sadder and wiser, only to confront the further wrench of a daughter’s departure for Australia.
What is home? Is it where the heart is or the income? Should we let our emotions be blackmailed by parents or grandparents? Can the movie age, and now the e-mail era, close the spaces between continents? Touchingly, we see bits of the 8mm films with synched sound that Dad sent to India instead of letters. Vocal homilies and endearments are laid over the culturally universal glimpses of home life: we can all recognise the kids romping in the garden, the marriages, the graduations. Warm, insightful and tragicomic, I for India is a living scrapbook with a living warning about the messages we send each other across the world’s surface and how no amount of audiovisual backup will guarantee that those messages are better heard, seen or understood.