Little girls never stop loving their daddies in Festival of Lights, a drama that never stops loving soap-opera-style melodramatics. Having fled Guyana for New York with her mom, Meena (Ritu Singh Pande), Reshma (Melinda Shankar) proves a rebellious teenager who talks back to guidance counselors and makes out with bad boys—until (cautionary-tale alert!) she’s raped by one of them. Fleeing disapproving mom, who’s remarried to businessman Adem (Aidan Quinn), Reshma moves in with Ravin (Stephen Hadeed Jr.), to whom she’s soon engaged. Writer/director Shundell Prasad makes abundantly clear through clunky and simplistic plotting that Reshma’s wayward course can only be righted by rejecting Western mores and re-embracing her traditional cultural heritage, symbolized by the titular Diwali celebration. That monotonous message is also felt in Reshma’s belief that true transformation can only occur if she reunites with her father (Jimi Mistry), still jailed in Guyana for illegally smuggling Ravin’s family to America. However, her journey to Dad’s jungle prison, and the drug-smuggling and breakout subplots that follow, is handled with such quick, unconvincing brushstrokes that the proceedings verge on laughable. Meanwhile, amid the all-Indian cast, Quinn sticks out even more than the soundtrack’s attention-courting ’90s tracks by Salt-n-Pepa and Snoop Dogg.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 31, 2012