An awkward young man from India begins to see new possibilities in life after falling for his beautiful neighbour in Sri Kishore’s comic melodrama My Indian Boyfriend (我的印度男友). Billed as the first ever Indian-style film made in Hong Kong, Kishore’s musical romance has already come in for a degree of criticism with some objecting to what they see as a pun on a racial slur in the film’s original Cantonese title (which has since been changed) though the cross-cultural love at the film’s centre does perhaps attempt to overcome a sense of division even if cultural differences are not in the end what keeps the couple apart so much as their individual circumstances.
The hero, Krishna (Karan Cholia), is the youngest of three siblings and moved to Hong Kong with his family as a child but has been unable to settle, finding it difficult to get a job and repeatedly stating a desire to return to India. Jasmine (Shirley Chan Yan-Yin), meanwhile, is a model and dance instructor technically engaged to sleazy businessman Richard (Justin Cheung Kin Sing) to whom she feels indebted because he took care of her family when her father died but otherwise appears not to like very much possibly because of his worryingly controlling, possessive personality. In fact, the pair’s first meeting is brokered by Richard’s unsolicited racist provocation on spotting Krishna and his Chinese friend Kong (Kaki Sham) outside the building into which Jasmine is about to move generating a sense of animosity that proves difficult to dissipate until Krishna discovers that Jasmine is actually a friend of his sister’s and thereafter falls in love with her.
It has to be said that Krishna’s obsessive courtship crosses the line of what is considered appropriate, quite clearly making Jasmine uncomfortable and leaving her in a difficult position because of her friendship with the rest of the family. We can see that Richard is definitely bad for her (and every other woman on the planet), but to begin with it’s not clear Krishna is much better save for the fairly low bar that when he realises his behaviour is problematic he does agree to back off if occasionally trying to badger Jasmine into a platonic friendship while warning her against marrying Richard whom she already agrees is likely to make her extremely unhappy.
Richard meanwhile is continually spitting chips, both incredibly jealous and intensely racist throwing racial slurs around at random and later sending in some of his hired thugs to have Krishna beaten up though it’s unclear why he thought doing either of these things would help to endear him to Jasmine even as he continues to leverage the financial assistance he’s given her family to imply she has no other choice but to become his wife in recompense. In fact neither of the men really give much thought to what Jasmine might want, nor does her mother (Griselda Yeung) take her feelings into consideration coming from an earlier time in which financial stability was the only concern either oblivious to Richard’s many red flags or thinking they’re worth putting up with so long he continues to provide a comfortable life. Even so Richard’s obvious racism does not seem to be so far out of line with society around him, Krishna finding himself constantly facing xenophobic microaggressions with even a prospective employer taking one look at him and openly remarking that they don’t hire South Asians followed by a justification based on a series of offensive racial stereotypes.
The constant xenophobia along with his father’s incessant criticism fuels Krishna’s sense of futility along with his half-hearted desire to return to India where he perhaps feels he might do better free from the twin pressures of unfair parental expectation and societal prejudice. Nevertheless, his love for Jasmine forces him to confront himself and turn his life around now given a reason to start making a concrete life for himself in Hong Kong while her love for him strays a little into the uncomfortable as she’s won over by the force of his feelings and thereafter turns him into a kind of project, a fixer upper boyfriend, restoring his sense of confidence by embracing his talent for dancing so that he can begin to make something of himself while she continues to struggle with her mother’s disapproval not only because of her prejudice towards Krishna on the grounds of his ethnicity but her insistence on the debt they owe to Richard. But then as Krishna says love is love whether it’s in India or Hong Kong, and will eventually conquer all. Featuring several Bollywood-style musical sequences and some fairly questionable twists typical of romantic melodrama, Kishore’s light hearted love story does at least embody a sense of cross-cultural flow as the lovers (and their families) overcome their various prejudices to embrace the love they have for each other.
My Indian Boyfriend screened as part of Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022
Original trailer (Traditional Chinese/English subtitles)