Michael Scott

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Apr 4, 2017
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Basmati Blues


Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:
Final Score: :3.5stars:


Watching Brie Larson play in a cutesy indie comedy about rice farming seems a bit odd after she took home multiple awards for The Room, as well as starring in Kong: Skull Island, and even Short Term 12. I mean, why is she doing bit films like this when the world is her oyster at this moment in her career? Well, that’s really because Basmati Blues is actually so old that it was filmed BEFORE she even starred in any of these films a few years back. The movie was mostly shot in 2013, but was shelved for YEARS due to a monsoon on location that delayed filming, and then the studios felt the time had passed with Brie getting so much critical acclaim. Thus it was shelved until the beginning of 2018 where it got a brief theatrical run, and Shout Factory was able to get their hands on the home video release.

The shelving was also due to a mini controversy over the film’s message due to a badly edited international trailer that portrayed it as another “white savior” coming into a foreign country and saving them from their own backwards ways. Ironically, that’s not even CLOSE to the message of the film, but due to the trailer the bad word of mouth from India kept the movie shelved even longer than it should have. After hearing about all the hiccups and controversy, I was fully expecting to see a train wreck of a film. Especially since the critical response to it when released was near abomination levels. Basmati Blues was raked over the coals for being an insanely cliched musical that embarrassed itself with worn out musical tropes and bad acting. Well, the thing is, some amount of ill will was still going around with the controversy over the trailer, some critics didn’t even WATCH the same movie, or I’m completely out of touch with the rest of my fellow critics, because I really enjoyed the movie. It’s cheesy, cheeky, a bit cliched, but still family fun that deals in black and white and just has fun with the good old fashioned “evil monster vs. the little guy” stories that we grew up with decades ago.

Linda (Brie Larson) is a brilliant American scientist who has perfected a genetically modified strain of Basmati rice that will increase output by multiples. This means that the company she works for (Mogil) can market the rice to India (the largest exporter of Basmati rice), but their main PR contact has gone and messed up his credibility in the country. So, Mogil head honcho, Mr. Gurgon (Donald Sutherland), decides to send over Linda’s pretty face to smooze the country farmers into contracting with Mogil to produce rice form now on. It seems like a win, win situation. The Rice 9 is a fantastic seed rice that will grow bountiful crops in even the harshest conditions, so the farmers will gain profits, and Mogil can sell their product in a hitherto untapped market.
The thing is, there’s a deadly secret hiding under the mountain of legalize contracts. Rice 9 is a genetically modified crop, but one that will never be able to be re-seeded like most grains. Instead, it has to be bought yearly from Mogil otherwise they will never be able to re-plant the rice again. A little aspect of the contract that wasn’t made known to Linda OR the people she’s trying to sell the rice too.

On a personal level, Linda is having to deal with getting over her own scientific savior process. The film is not racists or “white savior” ist in the slightest, but Linda herself is coming from the “know it all” scientific arena, where science trumps everything, and her own blinders don’t allow the young woman to see the real world needs and desires of farmers who have been doing this same thing for countless generations. While there she also starts to fall for a simple farmer’s son named Rajit (Utkarsh Ambudkar) who has a completely different view on reality, as well as acts as a conduit for her to break away from her “know it all” scientific method and look at the world through a different lens.

As I said before, Basmati Blues is in no way a racist or condescending film, but it IS rather cliched. Everything is portrayed in black and white, with the Mogil executives drinking glasses of hundred dollar scotch while twirling their mustaches and gloating over how they are going to pull one over on the poor dumb farmers. The same thing can be said for Linda and Rajit’s relationship, as it follows the predictable path of two people from different worlds falling in love. Everything goes well for a while, then a misunderstanding (that would be cleared up in about 5 minutes if either one of them listened to each other) happens, the two are driven apart, then they come back full circle to live happily ever after.

One thing that I found extremely odd was the music chosen for this musical. I was expecting the lilting, hip swaying tones of Bollywood (there is only one Bollywood style song and dance number in the film), but instead was privy to sons by Pearl Jam, Sugarland and Americanized takes on Indian tunes. Brie Larson is not the greatest singer (she had to work at it), but the one thing I will give her is being dedicated to her craft. Even with such a cutesy roll, the actress gives 110%, making her character of Linda WAY more likable than she had any reason to be considering the slightly cliched scripting and directing. Utkarsh is adorably fun as well, making the chemistry between himself and Brie that much more palpable.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video: :4.5stars:
Shot nearly entirely on location over in India, the digitally shot film (I couldn’t find out WHAT cameras were used, just that this was a digital shoot) looks stunning on Blu-ray. The luscious local colors are dazzling to see on screen, with the deep greens of the foliage, to the bright yellow of a banana, right down to the red and purple tinges on traditional Indian garb. Fine details are exceptionally nuanced, with the audience able to see each and every bit of stubble on the actor’s faces, or the stray fibers on the costumes with razor sharp clarity. Blacks are deep and inky, I couldn’t find more than a smattering of black crush in the deepest of dark scenes. There’s some mild banding in the opening shots of the film, but those are fleeting and don’t really come back except for once or twice. It’s a beautiful film to behold on home video, and Shout Factory does an incredible job at bringing it to us on Blu-ray.

Audio: :4stars:
Basmati Blues is a musical straight to the core, so expect lots and lots of dialog punctuated with just as much song and dance numbers to fill out the surrounds and low end. Like expected, the dialog is straight forward and typical, with strong placement in the front of the sound stage, and good panning effects while in the Indian marketplaces. The songs really liven things up a bit, with music flowing from all directions. Interestingly enough, the songs are all much more traditional American ones instead of the Bollywood overtones I was expecting, which means lots of nice low end with great vocals. Brie Larson doesn’t do too bad on the songs, although most of the REALLY good stuff was by the other actors/singers. It’s a good track that really does everything well as a musical, and does so with ease.

Extras: :2.5stars:
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Dan Baron, Actor Utkarsh Ambudkar, Writer Jeff Dorchen, Producers Monique Caulfield and Jeffrey Soros
Behind the Scenes Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Photo Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

Final Score: :3.5stars:

Basmati Blues is no La La Land or The Greatest Showman, but it IS a family friendly musical that is about as offensive as Mr. Rogers. It’s cutesy, romantic, sweet, and got the typical “black vs. white” story lines of films that were more common 50 years ago than they are today. Shout Factory has done a great job with the release, giving us great video and audio, along with a decent array of extras as well. It’s not going to be my # musical of the last 3-4 years, but my wife and I really enjoyed sitting down and watching something as fluffy and fun as Basmati Blues midst the swarm of deep and serious dramas out today. Recommended as a fluffy fun watch.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: Brie Larson, Scott Bakula, Donald Sutherland, Tyne Daly
Directed by: Dan Baron
Written by: Dan Baron, Jeff Dorchen, Danny Thompson
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles: English
Studio: Shout Factory
Rated: R
Runtime: 106 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: April 3rd, 2018

Recommendation: Fluffy, fun, Watch

Last edited:


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Jul 13, 2017
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Thanks for the review. I will check it out once it is on amazon prime or netflix. :)
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