Review: ‘Four Samosas,’ starring Venk Potula, Sonal Shah, Sharmita Bhattacharya, Nirvan Patnaik, Karan Soni, Summer Bishil and Meera Simhan

June 18, 2022

by Carla Hay

Sonal Shah, Venk Potula, Sharmita Bhattacharya and Nirvan Patnaik in “Four Samosas” (Photo by Aakash Raj)

“Four Samosas”

Directed by Ravi Kapoor

Culture Representation: Taking place in Artesia, California, the comedy film “Four Samosas” features an all-Indian and Indian American cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: When a wannabe rapper finds out that his ex-girlfriend is getting married, he and three other people plot to steal the ex-girlfriend’s dowry of diamonds from her father.

Culture Audience: “Four Samosas” will appeal primarily to people who like quirky comedies and don’t mind if there are too many silly plot developments and irritating characters.

Sonal Shah, Venk Potula, Sharmita Bhattacharya and Nirvan Patnaik in “Four Samosas” (Photo by Aakash Raj)

If the annoying comedy “Four Samosas” were an actual meal, it would be junk food that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. This crime caper film has too much nonsense and bad acting to be enjoyable. The basic concept of “Four Samosas” had a lot of potential, but it’s ruined by scatterbrained plot developments and the movie’s desperation to be a quirky slapstick comedy.

Written and directed by Ravi Kapoor, “Four Samosas” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. However, “Four Samosas” looks like a student film or the type of movie that amateur filmmakers put on the Internet in the hopes of being discovered. The movie should be commended for having characters with easily identifiable personalities. Unfortunately, those personalities are shallow and can be described in two ways: obnoxious or dull.

And the most off-putting character is the “Four Samosas” protagonist: Vinesh, who goes by the nickname Vinny (played by Venk Potula), a wannabe rapper in his 20s, who lives in Artesia, California. Artesia is a small city that’s about 23 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Artesia has the nickname Little India because a large percentage of its population consists of Indian immigrants and Indian Americans.

Vinny has a day job as a sales clerk at a store that sells South Asian clothing. Expect to see some unfunny scenes of Vinny’s inept sales skills, as he tries to sell people items such as saris. Vinny has a mute female co-worker named Pushpa (played by Poonam Basu), whose muteness is mocked in some unamusing scenarios. Vinny’s so-called “rapping” is even worse than his sales skills. Kapoor co-wrote the original songs that are performed in the movie. Let’s just say that the songs range from forgettable to just plain embarrassing.

Vinny lives with his divorced mother Kamala (played by Meera Simhan), a seamstress who works out of the garage in their modest house. It’s mentioned early on in “Four Samosas” that Vinny’s father (played by “Four Samosas” director Kapoor), who doesn’t have a name in the movie, abandoned the family when Vinny was a child, but he still lives nearby. This deadbeat dad is now a Hindu priest, and Vinny seeks his advice in a few scenes that (much like most of this movie) end up falling flat in its attempt at being funny.

Vinny is living an aimless existence when he gets news that shakes him to the core: His ex-girlfriend Rina (played by Summer Bishil) is engaged to be married. Vinny and Rina dated for two years and broke up three years ago. Rina owns a hair salon, where Vinny goes to confront Rina about her upcoming wedding.

And in a very contrived scene, Vinny happens to meet Rina’s fiancé Sanjay (played by Karan Soni) outside of the salon. Sanjay is as confident as Vinny is insecure. Predictably, Vinny and Sanjay have an argument over Rina. It’s the type of silly scene where Sanjay brags that he’s better than “goat shit” and that he’s the “GOAT [greatest of all time] of goat shit.” It’s an example of the idiotic dialogue in “Four Samosas.”

And then, Vinny goes in the salon and argues with Rina, because an egomaniac like Vinny just can’t believe that Rina could marry someone else and possibly be happy without Vinny. Vinny asks Rina to break up with Sanjay and give Vinny another chance to date her. However, Rina essentially reminds Vinny why their relationship didn’t work: “You were so insecure. I got tired of waiting for you to realize that you deserve me.”

Vinny didn’t think he was good enough for Rina because she comes from a family of a higher social class. Her father, who’s only identified in the movie as Mr. Juneja (played by Tony Mirrcandani), owns a successful grocery store in Artesia called Juneja’s. (Rina’s mother is not seen or mentioned in the movie.) Vinny always believed that Mr. Juneja didn’t think Vinny was worthy of Rina. There are hints that Rina might still have feelings for Vinny, but she knows deep down that they were a mismatched couple.

Vinny is determined to stop Rina from getting married to Sanjay. He comes up with a plan to steal Rina’s dowry from Mr. Juneja. And it just makes Vinny look like an even more pathetic loser. The movie rapidly goes downhill from there.

Vinny ends up recruiting three accomplices for this crime:

  • Zak (played by Nirvan Patnaik), who is described as a “Bollywood dreamer,” is the only person in Vinny’s life who seems to be Vinny’s friend. Zak is a mild-mannered person who works at a server at a casual South Asian restaurant called Chaat House, but what Zak really wants to do with his life is be a Bollywood star. (You can easily predict that Zak will have a Bollywood musical moment in the movie.)
  • Anjali (played by Sharmita Bhattacharya), who is described as an “under overachiever,” is an aspiring journalist. She’s the editor-in-chief and publisher of a new start-up publication called the Great Little India Times, which she calls a newspaper, but it’s really a newsletter. Anjali has a crush on Zak, and the feeling is mutual. A running gag in the movie is that Anjali comes up with elaborate ideas that are more complicated than what needs to get done.
  • Para (played by Sonal Shah), who is described as a “malcontent engineer,” is an arrogant and cranky immigrant. Para is bitter because her plans fells apart to get a work visa or a green card. Para thinks she’s always the smartest person in the room. But in a badly made movie like “Four Samosas,” she’s just one of many idiots.

Somehow, Vinny knows that Rina’s dowry includes diamonds that her father keeps locked up in a safe in the back office of the grocery store. Vinny believes that they are “dirty diamonds” that were purchased on the black market. He tells his cohorts that stealing the diamonds will be “wealth reappropriation” where they will be stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

Zak is hesitant about getting involved in this crime, but Vinny tells him, “It isn’t right that people like Rina’s dad get rich, while good people like my auntie are dying because they can’t afford an operation.” Vinny says he’s going to use the money to pay for his aunt’s heart valve operation. Zak plans to use the money to finance Zac’s dreams of being a Bollywood star. Anjali wants more money for her start-up publication, while Paru plans to use the money to sort out her immigration problems. In other words, most of the money is going to be used for selfish reasons by these thieves.

“Four Samosas” has some supporting characters who are nothing but distracting nuisances. Nikki (played by Maya Kapoor) is Vinny’s teenage cousin, who tries to convince him to be a contestant in the Little India Cultural Show, a local talent contest. Vinny is very reluctant to participate. And you know what that means: There will eventually be a scene of Vinny in this talent show. Nikki is an aspiring rapper too. Her heinous shouting and screeching when she raps will make viewers want to cover their ears or stop watching this train wreck movie.

There’s also a group of five bizarre activists who call themselves the Revolutionaries. They all dress in identical red track suits, like they’re in some kind of cult, and they congregate outside an empty grassy lot to gather signatures for a petition. What is their cause? The Revolutionaries want to create an “independent South Asian state” on this tract of land. They want to name this state Aisetra, which is Artesia spelled backwards.

When Vinny walks past them on the street, the Revolutionaries ask him to sign their petition, but he refuses. “This is America,” he responds. “I want to keep it that way. If I wanted to be in South Asia, I’d go to South Asia.” The Revolutionaries then say that their proposed state could be the 51st state in the United States. Meanwhile, Vinny repeatedly tells the Revolutionaries in a condescending voice that Aisetra is Artesia spelled backwards. That’s what’s supposed to pass as “comedy” in this dreadful movie.

There are so many terribly conceived moments in “Four Samosas,” the movie just becomes a mishmash of people mugging for the cameras in nonsensical scenes. (And the mugging looks worse because of the movie’s over-reliance on close-up shots.) There’s no explanation for how Paru met the other three accomplices. She just shows up in her first scene with a rushed explanation about her immigration problems.

There’s a dumb scene where Anjali shows up unannounced at Mr. Juneja’s back office at the grocery store to pretend that she wants to interview him for the Great Little India Times. He agrees to the interview. Meanwhile, Zak begins to dance on a checkout counter in the store, so that the movie can waste a little time doing a Bollywood musical fantasy sequence. Mr. Juneja sees on surveillance video monitors in his office that Zak is causing a commotion in the store, so Mr. Juneja leaves the office to investigate.

It’s all a setup so that Anjali could be alone in the office to take pictures of the closed safe where Mr. Juneja keeps the diamonds. The safe also has a wad of cash, but the would-be thieves only want to take the diamonds, because they think they’re “dirty diamonds” that Mr. Juneja won’t report as missing to the police if the diamonds gets stolen. What’s so asinine about this “get Mr. Juneja out of the office” scene is that there’s no real reason for anyone to take photos of a closed safe (which can be opened by a combination code on a touch-tone keypad) when it doesn’t really help the would-be thieves figure out what the safe’s combination code could be.

Needless to say, more witless hijinks ensue before and after the theft. The thieves decide the best way to steal the diamonds is to hide in the grocery store when it’s closed, so that they have plenty of time to crack the safe. The movie’s opening scene announces that the theft did occur, and the thieves are shown running out of the grocery store, so there’s no suspense leading up to that moment.

One of the few things that seems slightly amusing in “Four Samosas” is that the four thieves decide to disguise themselves by dressing up as the opposite sex. These drag disguises could have been the source of some hilarious comedic scenarios, but this idea is just a cheap gimmick that goes nowhere. It’s one of many examples of the movie’s half-baked ideas that are overshadowed by ditsy dialogue and characters with terrible or boring personalities.

Sagar Desai’s musical score for “Four Samosas” is better-suited for a tacky sitcom rather than a screwball comedy movie. It seems like the “Four Samosas” filmmakers mistakenly thought that dialing up the grating music and the manic energy would somehow make everything funnier. It doesn’t. The aftermath of the theft is just ridiculousness that will make viewers dislike the characters even more.

“Four Samosas” also has a mid-credits scene and an end-credits scene that have no bearing on the main story. These credits scenes just reek of self-indulgent garbage with no real thought put into making anything truly funny. Anyone who keeps watching “Four Samosas” until the very excruciating end will feel like they’ve gone through a more squirm-inducing endurance test than any of the foolish shenanigans inflicted by the moronic characters in this time-wasting movie.

UPDATE: IFC Films will release “Four Samosas” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on December 2, 2022.

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