Movie Review by Jeannete Catsoulis
Published November 14, 2007
In “I for India” Sandhya Suri offers her family’s immigrant experience as a springboard for questions of nationality, filial responsibility and what we mean by home.
When Dr. Yash Pal Suri, the filmmaker’s father, left India for England in 1965, he remained in touch with his parents and siblings by using matching sets of Super 8-millimeter cameras and audiotape recorders. The resulting missives, lovingly shaped by the filmmaker into four decades of familial intimacy, form the core of a movie that’s both deeply personal and surprisingly universal.
As Dr. Suri shares news of his growing family and professional success, English words and phrases begin to replace the native Hindi he sometimes struggles to recall. Increasingly anguished replies from his relatives mourn his absence and gently chide his abdication from the obligations of an eldest son. When a painful attempt to resettle in his homeland is unsuccessful, Dr. Suri is forced to a philosophical — if not emotional — acceptance of a separation mandated by his desire for more than what he calls a mediocre life.
Building small moments into a larger history of assimilation laced with cultural friction (fascinating excerpts from 1960s and ’70s television programs provide a parallel record of Britain’s escalating hostility to “colored people”), “I for India” moves beyond the personal without belaboring the political. In its quiet, unassuming way, the film understands that the complexities of identity are found in the heart and not the home.