London Indian 2014 Review: HANK & ASHA, A Romance Interrupted

J Hurtado, Contributing Writer
I didn't join the Twitch team to write about romantic comedies. 

I'm more of a genre film guy with a particular slant toward Indian flavored cinema. However, I've seen James Duff's Hank & Asha appear on the rosters of enough Indian film festivals around the world that I figured I'd give it a shot when the London Indian Film Festival gave it a seal of approval as well. I'm still not quite sure where I stand on it, but it has stayed with me for several days, so that's probably in its favor.

Hank is a filmmaker in New York. When his documentary plays at a film festival in Prague, a student from India sees it and wants to ask him a few questions, though she sadly is unable to do so because Hank was unable to attend the screening. Asha's solution? Record a video with her questions, boring stuff like "why did you choose this subject for your documentary", and sends it to Hank in the hopes of a response. Hank responds, Asha responds back, and so on and so forth. Love blooms, problems emerge, feelings wax and wane, and the story gets messy.

The entire film is told in remarkably well shot videos from the pair, not surprising since Hank is a filmmaker and Asha a film student. As such, there are no on-screen ancillary characters, it's a two-person show, so naturally, the film rests on the pair's ability to connect without ever being in the same room. In that regard, the film is largely successful. Hank and Asha are able to mimic the actions of people who care for each other, though, as any veteran of a long distance romance that exists solely through the ether and not as a result of face to face interaction (guilty), it's easy to be in love when it's just the two of you.

Before too long, the couple plans to meet in Paris, ostensibly to quench Asha's longtime desire to frolic in the city of lights, but the subtext to that trip is pretty clear, nudge nudge, wink wink, knowuddamean... However, in all of the magic of true love, one of the pair forgets a fairly significant fact that puts a damper on their plans. It's a white guy and an Indian girl (a spinster at 25) with traditional parents, I'm sure you can figure it out. The pair's discussions devolve from loving descriptions of the time they'll spend in Paris, to histrionic fits regarding their as-yet-unconsummated feelings for one another.

You may think you've seen this film before, but, honestly, the story wraps up in a rather novel way, or at least not in the way you think it might. This is both a blessing and a burden for Hank & Asha, though it's difficult to explain fully without giving away the ending. Let me just say that most Bollywood films dealing with similar subject matter do not have the balls to end on the note on which Hank & Asha does. Personally, I'm perplexed by the ending. Not quite regressive, but not quite progressive, and yet, not quite even in the middle, just kind of weird.

Hank & Asha is a sweet film, perhaps a bit to saccharine for the average Twitch reader, but for the romantics among us it certainly has its moments. Mahira Kakkar's performance as the gentle, romantic, pragmatic, Asha is particularly endearing. It is Andrew Pastides' performance as Hank that puts a little bit of a kink in the works for me, though I'm 100% certain that it is the performance he was directed to give, it also rings a wee bit false just in that there's no way a person would do some of the things he does. I don't know about you, but if I'm in a long-distance relationship that's going south, I might edit myself in messages to the other party so as not to seem like a crazy person.

A tight little debut feature from Duff, Hank & Asha shows a lot of potential. First film jitters are easily forgotten, though he's going to need to branch out from the gimmicky hook of the bouncing video blog if he's going to make another film. I guess the real question around Hank & Asha for me is, would I bring a date to this? The answer to that question is no. However, on its own merits it's a fine film, just not exactly my speed.
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