India Sweets and Spices review – likable Indian American family comedy

Geeta Malik’s semi-autobiographical send-up of a snooty New Jersey community has interesting, awkward things to say about class

India Sweets and Spices.
Real generosity and warmth … India Sweets and Spices. Photograph: Eliza Morse

Ayoung Indian American woman Alia (Sophia Ali) rolls her eyes at her mother’s generation in the affluent New Jersey community where she grew up. The aunties, she jokes, are a bunch of “sari-wearing zombies”, only interested in shopping and gossiping about who’s getting married and who’s getting fat. Alia’s assessment of her mum – and her own privilege – are the subject of this extremely likable mother-daughter comedy with a smart script from Geeta Malik, who has said in interviews her affectionate send-up is semi-autobiographical.

Alia is back home for the summer holidays planning to chill. Her dad Ranjit (Adil Hussain) is a successful doctor; her mum Sheila (Manisha Koirala) is devoted to keeping up appearances. All the families in their world take it in turns to throw fancy parties, trying to outdo each other with the catering. On a whim, Alia invites the Duttas, a family who’ve just taken over the local south Asian shop, to a party at her parents’ house (mainly because she fancies their son Varun, played by Rish Shah). It’s a clumsy thing to do: her dad is appalled (“who next, the gardener?”). At the party, the other guests are frosty and condescending towards the “shopkeepers”.

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