The delicate father/son drama Brahmin Bulls relies on a series of small miracles, from an indoor cat finding her way home after being left on the side of the road to an estranged spouse putting her faith in a husband who has repeatedly sidestepped his promises. In Mahesh Pailoor’s accomplished first feature, written with his wife, Anu Pradhan, these moments serve as markers on a path to reconciliation for stern engineering professor Ashok Sharma (Roshan Seth) and his impetuous son Siddhartha, an architect who prefers the nondescript Sid (Sendhil Ramamurthy).
Their emotional distance isn’t the result of living on opposite coasts (Boston and Los Angeles). When Ashok shows up on Sid’s doorstep, the father’s disappointment and the son’s hostility immediately surface. Both men also have something to hide: Ashok is attending an academic conference in hopes of seeing Helen West (Mary Steenburgen), his former graduate assistant and lost love; and Sid doesn’t want to admit that six months after a trial separation, his wife, Ellie (Cassidy Freeman), is not coming back.
Brahmin Bulls focuses on the individual choices made by Ashok and Sid, but just as Gingger Shankar subtly weaves traditional Indian instrumentation throughout her lovely score, Pailoor touches upon how cultural expectations inform their relationship. The great Seth (My Beautiful Laundrette) wears his character’s contradictions with ease, and Ashok’s shift from patriarchal rigidity to impish hedonism seems as simple as slipping out of a protective cardigan. Ashok’s willingness to be childish is a welcome gift for the petulant Sid, putting them on equal footing at last.