Slick performances and shocking truths define Deepa Mehta's latest cinematic offering
Suited, booted and sexy. Beeba Boys, the Indian take on classic mob movie Goodfellas, swaps Martin Scorsese’s Italian mafia of New York for the equally as sleek gun toting, drug hustling streets of Vancouver, where the lads wear turbans with their Tuxedos and the tales aren’t fictitious; but are based on reality. The new and unexpected film offering from respected Director and Writer Deepa Mehta is inspired by her own Canadian roots. The first ‘gangster’ movie directed by a woman for over 40 years it’s a ferocious, adrenaline-charged, fast-paced flick that breaks every stereotype of Asian men, ever portrayed in Western cinema. Here the Indians are in charge and they are unashamedly ruthless.
The plots focuses on gang leader Jeet Johal (Randeep Hooda) and his young, loyal dapper crew. Never seen without their sharp suits they are always ready to break out into comic banter. Conflict exist between Jeet and fellow drug baron Robbie Grewal (Gulshan Grover), and the story focuses on this long-term rivalry. Based on reality, the story is a thought-provoking portrayal of the Indo-Canadian gang violence that exists in Vancouver today, but is largely ignored. Described by Deepa as a ‘magnifying glass’ looking at issues faced by the community; turning the spotlight on this criminal community will no doubt make for sensitive viewing for anyone directly linked to it.
For the public, the cinematic experience is one that is uneasy, pleasurable and shocking. Brutal killings are juxtaposed against family gatherings while a raucous bhangra soundtrack keeps the action flowing. In the lead role, Randeep plays his part with ease and conviction. He holds attention with his authoritative presence and fits into the role of a charming gentleman who can equally be viewed as a hero as much as a villain. His brood of sharply dressed assistants are an inspiration to Desi men around the globe – perhaps not with their actions, but their wardrobe choices. The costumes are one of the movie's highlights and while the characters are depicted to be an inspiration to the younger generation of Canadian kids who look up to real-life criminals, perhaps more suitable an outcome would be if they started to look after their appearance in this most admirable of ways.
Gulshan Grover’s character is lesser explored, and more could have been revealed about his past life in order to gain a better connection with the audience. Nevertheless his presence in a movie is always welcomed and though his part is brief, he still manages to inject his signature menacing touch. The role of Robbie's daughter Choti (Gia Sandhu) is a refreshing one. Choti is fearless when it comes to gang warfare and Jeet’s mother is equally as unique, she plays an active role in her son’s life as a criminal.
As complex as it is creative, Beeba Boys will shock and this is perhaps what it will be remembered for. The film is an insight into a story that doesn’t have an end. It is not intended to be a literal portrayal of life in Vancouver but it will raise awareness of the underworld that exists in Canada. It also shows Indian/South Asian men in a new light for a Western viewing public.
Within the gangster genre, Beeba Boys offers a fresh, contemporary look at mob culture and while it doesn’t offer a solution, it does provide a new kind of ‘awareness-raising-entertainment’: showing there are many sides to the Asian diaspora that still remain untold.
Beeba Boys directed by Deepa Mehta is showing at The BFI London Film Festival on Thursday 8th and Saturday 10th October 2015. For more details and to book tickets visit www.bfi.org.uk/lff. It is on general release from 16th October.