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Generations Clash in Indian-American Slice-o-Life Walkaway

For the quartet of Indian-American New Yorkers at the center of Shailja Gupta’s Walkaway, the Old World is never far behind. It’s there in the constant phone calls from their ammas, the pressures of arranged marriages, and the parental insistence on keeping customs that seem as outmoded to these four slick professionals as they likely will to non-Indian viewers. Revolving around two upcoming nuptials that nearly get sidetracked by clashes between families over the wedding traditions (one mother wants her daughter-in-law to ritually marry a pot; the other family clashes over differences in economic status), Gupta’s comedic drama shrewdly parses the divided consciousness of the contemporary Indian-American. The acting is strictly amateur-hour and the plotting inconsistently meted out among its various characters, but Walkaway has an intimate understanding of the push-pull experienced by its gallery of twentysomethings who are comfortable with Western customs, but drawn by an ineluctable bond to a culture they can’t shake. No matter how ridiculous the older generation comes off—and Gupta’s depiction of Indian parents as old-fashioned, status-obsessed squabblers is relentlessly harsh—the young characters feel a believable guilty obligation to their demands. In Walkaway, happiness becomes something achieved in spite, not because of, a person’s family ties.


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