Director: Gurinder Chadha
Writer: Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha
Release Date: April 21 2010
Running Time: 100 mins
Starring: Sanjeev Bhaskar, Zoe Wanamaker, Jimi Mistry, Sally Hawkins, Steve Morphew, Jamie Sives, Sendhil Ramamurthy,, Mark Addy, Shabana Azmi, Goldy Notay, Ray Panthaki
Honour killings, family feuds, arranged marriages and a “Curry killer” who seemingly has a taste for elderly ladies, “clearly has cooking skills and knows their spices”, are among the troubles the Asian community of Southall face in It’s a Wonderful Afterlife.
The BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated husband and wife writing team behind Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, Bride and Prejudice and Bend It Like Beckham are back for another successful chuckle-inducing union, cooking up darker humour than previous projects.
Roopi Sethi (Goldy Notay) is a young independent single woman whose father recently died, leaving her mother alone to worry about her daughter’s marital status and dosser DJ brother, Jazz. After bearing witness to an onslaught of insulting statements about her daughter’s appearance (“There’s no excuse for a moustache like that”, “Who will marry that? Think of the grocery bills”…), Mrs Sethi (Shabana Azmi) snaps and decides to kill off all those who have spurned Roopi.
When Roopi’s critical suitors start returning as blue Smurf-like ghosts and are visible to only her, Mrs Sethi recognises her crime and unable to rid herself of her entourage decides suicide is the only answer but only after Roopi is happily married and provided for. Angry and bitter at first, the stuck spirits realise that confession will result in a group prison sentence and suicide may be their only hope of being laid to rest. After days of following Mrs Sethi and witnessing Roopi’s kindly nature, they agree to help her find an eligible willing husband.
Meanwhile the police are desperately hunting the “Curry Killer”, the media are having a field day and Roopi’s childhood playmate, Raj (Mohinder Suresh in Heroes), has moved to the area and is on the case. Even Roopi’s best friend, Linda (Sally Hawkins), aka Gitali (“Melodious One”), has managed to find herself an Indian husband so in desperation Roopi concedes to her mother’s wishes by attending an Asian speed-dating night.
It’s a Wonderful Afterlife’s lame and blatant message that dough-shaped curry lovers can find romance too is forgiven by the tongue firmly stapled to the cheek and barrage of witty lines from the groan inducing “He’s just currying favour” to a vegetarian victim complaining of death by meat and the more spiteful “Whoever marries her will never need a mattress”.
Opening with an unforgettable exploding curry surgery splatter scene, the tone is set for a film packed full of inventively ludicrous murders like suffocation by chapatti, a kebab skewering through the neck and curry poisoning. An amazingly melodramatic party scene paying homage to Carrie with guests high on weed pakora, involves a vat of chillis, flying popadoms, inverted heart décor, speeding chicken-wing bullets and self-popping champagne bottles – all grotesquely exaggerated for maximum comical effect.
For a film steeped in death, It’s a Wonderful Afterlife manages to find and create humour all around. The A-Team’s music accompanies Raj as he carries out his investigations among the local Asian community. Mrs Sethi is unable to escape death accidentally and purposefully destroying anyone who crosses her path. Even her attempt to commit suicide ends badly as her friend and next door neighbour, Mrs Goldstein (Zoe Wanamaker), innocently eats one of the poisoned sweets and dies, later reflecting: “I always said your cooking is so good, it’s going to kill me one day.”
It’s a Wonderful Afterlife is a delightfully playful lighthearted affair, cleverly twisting and utilising a very real concern to masterful comic effect.