‘A Nice Indian Boy’ is More Than Your Average Bollywood Love Story

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Karan Soni & Jonathan Groff in 'A Nice Indian Boy' | Photo by David Bukach

“A Nice Indian Boy” premiered at the 2024 SXSW Film & TV Festival, it received two standing ovations and positive reviews. The movie is currently waiting for a distribution partner.

Reminding us why we all grew up loving DDLJ or ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ Roshan Sethi’s ‘A Nice Indian Boy’ is the sweet rom-com our hearts need in this tragic world.

Set in California’s Indian-American community the film, based on the play by Madhuri Shekar, celebrates the chaotic reality of having an immigrant family and the “bigness” of love.

Getting to the point right away, ‘A Nice Indian Boy’ introduces us to the boy-meets-boy storyline quickly, allowing us to follow the relationship from its messy beginning to its fairytale end. Split into four chapters, it shows us the reality of dating— that not all first dates start perfect— and the behind-the-scenes of what may seem like the perfect family.

“‘A Nice Indian Boy’ follows a gay Indian man who both dreams of – and fears – the big Indian wedding, the lavish and unashamed expression of love,” director Sethi said. “It’s personal. After years of struggling to come out, I myself am getting married to a man. I’ve dreamt of it for a long time.”

The story centers on Naveen (Karan Soni), an Indian-American doctor who struggles to openly express himself while planning to bring home a nice “Indian” boy.

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It’s clear that this is a personal story for all those involved.

Speaking to how special it was making this film with his partner Sethi, Soni told Brown Girl Magazine that this was “the most personal project we’ve ever done and the fact that we got to do it together was so special. We got to create the big fat gay wedding of our dreams!”

Watching the film at the New York City screening last week, I found myself going through a range of emotions from feeling secondhand awkwardness, to happiness and even tears.

Like most single people, Naveen is exhausted from going to lavish Indian weddings, he seems content with his strict routine of being a workaholic doctor until he meets Jay, (Jonathan Groff) a white photographer raised by Indian parents. It’s then we see Naveen break out of his shell and learn more about his dreams of the lavish Bollywood wedding he always dreamed of.

“This role is a lot more nuanced from parts I’ve gotten to play before. This character is very internal and has a lot that he hasn’t expressed emotionally in his life and getting that across without dialogue was the main challenge,” Soni said.

“It was really fun to play this arc where he goes from being shy and repressed to dancing and in love by the end of the movie. It was such rich material to work with and I could draw a lot on it from my real life. In many ways, I’ve been able to come out of my shell in my relationship with Roshan. He was the first person I dated seriously and introduced to my parents. So there were so many eerily parallels in this story.”

Being a rom-com, it is given that Naveen will come around to love and stand up for himself at the end but the detailed journey the film takes viewers on is it’s real strength.

It depicts the strength of love between two partners and the platonic love between siblings, parents and friends.

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Defying Indian stereotypes, with the name itself seemingly calling out aunties, the film will have you laughing and crying with its traditional love story and comedic twist. Blending romance and comedy effortlessly with culture, the film takes viewers on a journey of experiencing what it’s like living in a household that knows your sexuality but doesn’t know how to act around or be supportive of someone who is gay.

Naveen’s parents are played by Hindi film veteran Harish Patel and world-renowned comedian Zarna Garg, who perfectly depicts her standup persona in her acting debut. The pair balances one another well and gives the film a sitcom feel with their attempts at understanding their gay son.


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Most iconic is Garg’s character Megha’s calls to Naveen and reminders that she is watching Out TV to understand him. But while she effortlessly brings her comedy to the screen, it’s not all laughs. Garg’s character is more complex with her depicted as both happy-go-lucky and the protective Indian mother who fears her son’s life will be more difficult due to his sexuality.

“I was told my role was that of a mother who is disappointed in her children and husband and that felt like the perfect role for me,” Garg said to Brown Girl. “Actors like to talk about how hard they worked to get in character, not me. I slipped right into it.  Seriously though, I would have been a fool to pass up this extremely nuanced, realistic and complex mom part.”

She added: “I came into the world of entertainment by accident, but I apply the same principles in it that I do in other aspects of my life — align with the best players and and follow their advice.  Here, I knew I was in extremely safe and capable hands of Roshan Sethi and Karan Soni and my intention was to trust their vision and surrender to it.”

Garg said her favorite part of the film was when Naveen and Jay openly said what they wanted at the dinner table. She said the conversation made her “weep” and quite frankly it had me in tears too.

“That scene gutted me and made me wonder if there are things my children want that I don’t know about.”

With a lack of understanding fueling the hate towards the LGBTQIA community, stories like this are crucial to tell. Gay stories often focus on white Americans, so seeing one that transcends nationality and cultural identity is refreshing. It reminds us that love manifests itself in many ways between partners, friends and family.

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Noting that several parts of the film “did not feel like acting” Sethi shared the struggles the film faced with Brown Girl Mag including being seen as niche despite its universal storyline and the reactions that came with what may be the first time a gay Hindu ceremony has been depicted onscreen.

“We struggled to find a pundit who would help us with the details,” Sethi said, adding that one described as progressive even used directory language towards him.

But not all the reactions were negative, Sethi shared that while the cast did not know how the extras of the film, mostly those from an older generation, would react to two men getting married and kissing “they cheered and when Karan and Jonathan walked away from the mandap, they spontaneously rose in their seats and threw rice/flowers/petals.”

“The power of this story is that there are so many access points to the central characters that people can see themselves in,” Soni said. “Whether it’s being queer or sibling dynamics, first-generation family issues or anyone who has ever wanted to feel fully accepted by their family.”

A heartfelt tale of love and culture, ‘A Nice Indian Boy’ is a must-see universal tale of love and acceptance. It’s a new take on Bollywood love, that shows viewers what looks like a genuine love story instead of an exaggerated romantic imitation while reminding us that Bollywood is not only for straight or Indian people.

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By Aysha Qamar

Aysha Qamar is a writer, poet and advocate based in the tri-state area. She currently serves as BGM’s News and … Read more ›