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Upperstall Review


Official Site

It's a Wonderful Afterlife


English, Comedy, Horror, 2010, Color

Mrs Sethi (Shabana Azmi) is a widow living in Southall who wants to marry off her only daughter, for she is alone and unhappy. Her daughter, Roopi, (Goldy Notay) is a little plump and opinionated. Mrs. Sethi finds that all her matchmaking efforts to find a suitor for Roopi are rudely rejected. She avenges this behavior toward her daughter by killing off the failed dates using her culinary skills. A police hunt begins for a serial murderer using a killer curry. Mrs Sethi doesn't feel guilty until the spirits of her victims come back to haunt her. They are unable to be reincarnated until their murderer dies. Mrs Sethi must kill herself to free the spirits, but vows to get her daughter married off before this. The spirits realize that helping Roopi find a suitable husband before the police catch Mrs Sethi is in their best interests, and everyone begins to work together. Meanwhile, Roopi catches the eye of the young Sergeant investigating the case...

Post Bend it Like Beckham (2002), Gurinder Chadha's cinematic journey has been going rapidly downhill with the disappointing Bride and Prejudice (2004), the woeful Mistress of Spices (2005), which she co-wrote and produced for husband Paul Mayeda Berges, and now It's a Wonderful Afterlife. What should have been a clever and imaginative film laced with black humour ends up being plain stupid and idiotic. Let's just say a Southall Serial Mom it ain't!

After an actually reasonably engaging enough (just about) first half, the film runs out of steam and rapidly goes downhill and totally out of control to a point of no repair. You are actually gobsmacked as the second half unfolds on screen and actually wonder what the bloody hell with the screenwriters thinking? Did they actually think this nonsense was worth filming??? In particular, the grotesque scene at the engagement with Sally Hawkins going haywire just about hits the lowest point of the film.

OK, so Chadha understands the Punjabis in Southall as few can. Few can deal convincingly with such stereotypes and caricatures and yet bring a smile to the face as she can. The initial scenes of Shabana with the spirits are somewhat funny and admittedly, Sanjeev Bhaskar does have have the odd witty dialogue, and when the women spirits side up against the men saying they would never understand a mother's heart, you do find yourself chuckling - but all this doesn't make for a full fledged film.

In fact, if you take away the efforts of the cast, in particular the reliably efficient Shabana Azmi as the typical Punjabi mother whose biggest worry is in finding her fat daughter a suitable husband and the wonderful Goldy Notay, who easily comes up with the best performance in the film as the daughter constantly humiliated for her weight before finding her prince charming, the film would be pretty much unwatchable. As it is, the second half is very much so be it the engagement sequence, as mentioned, or the cop's accidental killing. Fine actors like Jimi Mistry are wasted while Sendhil Ramamurthy is none too impressive in a weakly sketched role as the policeman who spies on Natey, a suspect in the killings, and predictably ends up falling in love with her.

The technicalities too add nothing to the film, and even the end titles are but a boring deja vu of Chadha's previous films.

All in all, not a wonderful film at all. Not by a mile.

Upperstall review by: Karan Bali aka TheThirdMan

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