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|July 17, 2000||
Of Dollar Dreams and human feelings
Got the idea? Dollar Dreams takes off where Hyderabad Blues ended. Blues was about love and adjustment. Dreams is about choices.
By way of aside, is there some kind of strange affinity between Hyderabad and the US of A? Producer-director Shekhar Kammula says yes. Sixty-six per cent of all Indians who move to the States, he says, are from Andhra Pradesh -- a startling figure, and one that could be hotly contested by our Patels and Sardars, among others.
Anyway, the film revolves around six characters faced with the choice of making careers, and homes, for themselves in the States, or staying on in India. Ravi, thus, is US-bound, flying in the face of his parents' grief at his departure. Balu is determined to follow his footsteps. Phani hesitates on the verge of making the same choice. Srinu, the rebel, is the exception, preferring to study management in India. Sardar dreams of expanding his family business. And Usha, the only girl in the group, is busy with a project that involves interviewing the US-bound.
The film starts rather jerkily but, once the characters settle down, it becomes engrossing. The director sets his characters against the backdrop of middle class Hyderabadi society and its magnificent obsession with the US, the H-1 visa and the Green Card. As typified by this couple who are heading off to the States just so their first child can be born there -- and thus become, automatically, an American citizen.
The conflict in the film is between the dollar dreams and human feelings. What, the film asks -- and tries to answer -- happens to those who are left behind, to the aged parents deprived of the support they had taken for granted?
Ravi's father, thus, suffers a heart attack. The son does not return and the old man is taken care of by friends. When Ravi finally returns, he finds he cannot adjust to the conditions he was brought up in. His choice is made and his return to the States is inevitable.
Can money change human nature to such an extent? Yes, if you look at Ravi. No, if you consider Balu -- who, on the verge of taking his flight, decides to tear up his travel documents and stay back, to get into business with Sardar.
Srinu, meanwhile, fails to get admission into the management institute. His father believes there is no scope for his son in India, but he prefers to hang on, figuring there is always another chance.
Usha, meanwhile, prefers to take notes, rather than take sides.
The film is of, and for, a young audience and sets dollars against culture to provide the conflict. Shekhar Kammula says he was shocked at the indifference, the sense of detachment shown by Indians in the US to their motherland.
This premise, of course, is debatable -- else, how explain the sprouting of Matungas in Mississippi, Bhatindas in Bristol and Saurashtras in Cincinatti? Then again, perhaps this aspect -- of NRIs turning out to be more Indian than their brothers back home -- is grist for a sequel. Of and by itself, Dollar Dreams is an enjoyable movie, crisply paced, with no-frills performances by the ensemble cast, and fully deserving of the Indira Gandhi award for the best film by a debutant director.
I predict a bright future for Shekhar Kammula and his gang.
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