Arranged Marriage is a 2021 film written and directed by Anoop Rangi. The film stars Megha Sandhu, Kavi Raz, Balinder Johal and Jordan Williams.
Twenty-three-year-old Kamali Matthu is loving life. She’s finishing up school, works retail at ‘Bikini World’ and has a steady white boyfriend, Clive. Kamali’s life is turned upside down though when she returns home to find an engagement party for her. Her parents have made the arrangement with a well-to-do engineering family, with her new groom to be, Rotoo, a budding sanitation engineer. Kamali is horrified by this attack on her sovereignty and becomes physically ill at the thought of Rotoo, who she views as nothing more than a nerd.
Kamali runs away from home and into the comforting arms of her boyfriend and friends. Both her freedom and safety are short-lived. When she refuses to return home, Kamali’s Father vows that he will stop at nothing to ensure the wedding goes ahead and vows vengeance on anyone who tries to stop it.
I was given a screener in order provide an honest review of the film. There are light spoilers included in the review.
Arranged Marriage made quite the impression on me, it stayed with me for days after viewing. I spent as much questioning my own response as to the film itself.
While comic book blockbusters and franchise reboots rule at the cinema we have increasingly seen more diverse stories being told. Perhaps more importantly they are beginning to break through to wider audiences. Films like Donkeyhead are an example of immigrant stories generated word of mouth. Arranged Marriage shows us a very dark look at the immigrant experience, it is a tragic tale that left me with a sense of heaviness. But why should a story of first generation immigrants not be tragic and bleak? Isn’t that just an example of diverse stories?
The arranged marriage ‘party’ had a lot going on and left me reeling. There were a lot of customs that happen during that meeting that I didn’t know about. There was the uncomfortable dowry bit and the paper bag thing which threw me off. It feels weird in such a big family where everyone else seemed to know that Kamali was completely in the dark about the engagement.
While at first Rotoo seemed like a throwaway character almost just to get the central family conflict going. His return brings up something that transcends Asian cultures and hits particularly close to home now. The films holds a mirror up to our central couple as we learn Rotoo has a secret white girlfriend when they stumble upon each other at a club.
The consequences for the two is pretty much the reverse. Rotoo obviously tells his parents about Kamali and her boyfriend, staining her family’s honour while being caught in the same situation as her. He bears no consequences and will likely have a new potential wife found for him. Kamali is terrified of this fallout fearing for her life even if at this moment she isn’t ready to admit it.
This girl can’t catch a break I think the return from the funeral told me things were bad. And I mean while she was still in the car. There could be questions ask about why she or their other friends even hang out with Clive. Jordan Williams needs to be commended for keeping Clive right on the edge, leaving you wondering if you are overreacting or if he is a creep.
Has Kamali been living in a fantasy, though she is ambushed by her family with the arranged marriage she undoubtedly knew it was coming. The fact that she was as such pains to keep her relationship secret seems to point to that.
Later on as things begin to escalate we see more of that refusal to accept reality. That doesn’t stop me feeling sympathy for her as her world falls apart. Also for the plight of everyone around her who becomes collateral damage.
Arranged Marriage asks the audience a lot of questions while taking them on quite the ride. It shows an immigrant experience that isn’t often talked about. There can be a conversation about whether it can do harm or not by people with a far more knowledge on the subjects raised. All the main characters are so unlikeable it leaves me wondering if I would feel differently otherwise. The film is very different to the last film I watched with a theme of Arranged Marriage, 7 Days but there are still some parralells.
No film, book or TV series has left me so unsure about what I personally took from a project. If you like films that really make you think and don’t necessarily leave you in a happier place then jump in.
Arranged Marriage opens in select Canadian areas from August 12.