Megha Sandhu in Arranged Marriage (Photos: Formula Features)
By Matt Brunson
★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Anoop Rangi
STARS Megha Sandhu, Kavi Raz
Except for the misspelling of “vitamin” as “vitiman” on a prop pill bottle shown in one of the first scenes, Arranged Marriage is an extremely polished and good-looking picture. It’s just a shame what’s inside is so ugly.
The movie stars Megha Sandhu as Kamali, an American-Indian (Asian, not indigenous) college student with a loving boyfriend in Clive (Jordan Williams), supportive friends in the miscegenational couple of Samantha (Saydee Dickinson) and Henry (John F. Thomas), and a groovy retail job at Bikini World. Kamali lives at home with her extended family, whose members, unlike her, have never accepted or integrated into American society. They’re hardcore traditionalists, and this leads to her father (Kavi Raz) arranging her marriage to a complete stranger, the nerdy and leering Rotoo (Jude Holmes). Kamali rejects this union, which infuriates her dad. Deciding that she’s been corrupted by her white friends, he orders her cousins to brutally kill any male classmate, colleague or chum he deems a threat to both her embracing of traditional values and her acceptance of her impending marriage.
Arranged Marriage is meant to be a satire, but it’s so heavy-handed and ham-fisted that very little humor seeps through. The murders are extremely gory and savage, with no leavening qualities to hint that they’re meant to be taken in a droll or tongue-in-cheek manner. The indifference and incompetence exhibited by the police are presumably designed to come across as exaggerated behavior, but given the realities of today’s world, they often feel like business as usual.
With the exception of Henry, a black guy who proves to be the least developed character in the entire enterprise, there isn’t anyone here who isn’t loathsome in the extreme — even Kamali loses audience sympathy with her mounting idiocy (to say nothing of a third-act action). As for Clive, he’s entirely insufferable, so much so that it’s difficult to believe Kamali would ever have glanced his way in the first place. In fact, she has more chemistry with Josh (Benedict Mazurek), a classmate who only appears in the very first scene.
Speaking of Josh, his murder opens the movie, except it makes no narrative sense. Kamali’s father doesn’t begin his violent war on whites until he meets (and beats) Clive in a later scene — before that, he and his kin are blissfully unaware of her activities. So who killed Josh? If it was Kamali’s family, then that’s sloppy writing; if it was someone (say, a serial killer) not involved with the rest of the movie, then who cares? Clearly, this sequence was only included to provide viewers with an immediate jolt, but it’s a cheat nonetheless.
As noted, the film looks great from a visual standpoint, and there’s no faulting any of the performances. But it’s impossible to ascertain writer-director Anoop Rangi’s point with all of this. Is it that Indian families are monstrous? Is it that we should just accept that everyone is a racist beneath the surface? Is it that miscegenation is an awful idea and it’s best that the races remain forever segregated? With ideas like these, who needs the MAGA mob?
(Arranged Marriage is currently available on Amazon Prime Video, Tubi, and other streaming services.)