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Seeing Straight

By Elvis D Silva
Last updated on: September 11, 2009 12:22 IST
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A girl who is engaged to be married realises that she doesn't actually love the man she is with, at least as much as she should to commit herself to spending a lifetime with him. It's happened before right? In the movies as well as real life? No big deal.

What if there was another man in the equation? Still happens. Still no big deal. So what if the 'other man' was a woman?

The implications of such a situation are explored by the filmmakers of I Can't Think Straight, a movie made in 2007 that is only now washing up on our shores. Starring Lisa Ray as the Jordanian Arab Catholic Tala, and Sheetal Sheth as Indian Muslim Leyla, this movie explores the effects of such a verboten liaison in modern-day London between women who must find a balance between living a lie (their traditional lifestyles) and facing up to their own personal truths.

Sure, the promotional pictures would suggest the presence of a degree of lascivious content -- two girls kissing is promoted as the ultimate straight guy fantasy right? But this movie is way more than that. Surprisingly so, because I haven't been particularly impressed by any previous movie Ms Ray has starred in (doesn't even matter that one of those movies was nominated for an Oscar).

It is a straightforward enough story, almost like it was built out of a template. When the girls meet there is friction at first, even a minor sense of acrimony but that quickly mutates into interest and infatuation. The more outgoing girl awakens Sapphic inclinations already present in the other and before long it is the quiet one who is insisting on living her life on her own terms.

This movie is raised above the humdrum by the performances of the two leads who bring admirable control and plausibility to their characters. Ms Ray really comes into her own as the vibrant Tala and even though she is given some 'Middle Eastern Politics for Dummies' dialogue to mouth at various points she brings a believability to her portrayal of a woman from a world where nothing is more cut-and-dried than a woman's place in society.

Similarly Ms Sheth, whom we last saw on the big screen in India seven or eight years ago in the ABCD comedy American Chai, infuses her Leyla with the right amount of wide-eyed sincerity and quiet confidence to allow us to believe that such a girl must have put her very lifestyle on the line to profess her feelings for another woman.

Even the supporting cast features characters who avoid descending into cliche. Credit must go to the writing duo of Shamim Sarif (who also directed the movie) and Kelly Moss who set this movie in a world interesting enough to give the proceedings cultural and emotional resonance.

For guys hoping to score points this weekend, this might be the ultimate date movie -- just as long as you don't get caught with your mouths open at an inappropriate time. There are some funny moments and even some tender ones and the overall effect is of having watched an above-average romantic comedy.

Granted it is not too hard on the eyes to watch two attractive women making out when they actually get around to it. But that is not the only reason to go watch this movie. For anyone who has ever been in love and found it difficult to come out and say it, for whatever reason, this movie will ring true.

So what if the players aren't cast in conventional roles? Does that even matter now, at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century?

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Elvis D Silva