Geeta Malik on Honoring the Indian Community with ‘India Sweets and Spices’


Writer-director Geeta Malik’s “India Sweets and Spices” is set in the middle of the Indian community of a New Jersey suburb, where wealthy families with their weekend parties look down on classy South Asian compatriots. factory Girl. The pic opened in Tribeca last year and was released in theaters and will be on Hulu after March 8. This interview has been edited for clarity and space.

Where did the idea for this film come from? Do you go to these kind of parties?

I used to go to these kind of parties very often when I was a child. I grew up in Aurora, Colorado, and the community there at the time was pretty small, it wasn’t a huge community. We went to the dinners of our friends and neighbors. It was just a way to keep up with the community and eat our own food, relax and enjoy the company of people you share a culture with. As I got older, I was expected to interact more with adults. And it was around this time that I started hearing what people were saying behind their backs and then smiling when they brought the chai. I thought that was a really interesting dynamic in our community. I think that’s one that’s very relevant, that’s what I’ve heard from people. If you live in a small town or some other kind of minority community, that happens because you want to stay with your people, you want that comfort and that warmth of community, but there’s a lot of backbiting that can happen too. . I thought it was a very rich environment for storytelling.

So the title, “India Sweets and Spices” – did you find it after you arrived in Los Angeles? Because there’s a whole chain of stores called that here.

“India Sweets and Spices” was the name of the grocery store that I put as a generic space and when we got the chance to make the movie, it just sounded like the right title for the movie. It also had a double meaning, sweets and spices. There is also something about it in the macro world of our lives that makes sense. For me too, coming to this name, the grocery store is such a connection for our community, the dinners were a connection for our community, but there is such a difference in that. What I tried to explore in the film too is this class thing: who do we see at the grocery store? How do we interact with it? How do we interact in our own home? So that made a lot of sense to me.

You have won a Nicholl scholarship (in screenwriting). Did that make your path to making this movie easier?

Yeah absolutely. I had been trying to make this movie for years. I showed it to a group of friends and producers. I had been trying to get funding for a long time and was not moving forward. It’s an all-South Asian cast, you know, and whatever the subject matter, it was very difficult to gain a foothold in the industry. In 2016, that’s where I won the Nicholl and it also won in Austin. Those two things finally got me the attention of the industry, got me my reps, and then we were kind of off to the races. The Nicholl was a real game-changer.

And getting this cast: Adil Hussein and Manisha Koirala, how did you get these two Bollywood stars?

It was a dream come true to have these two. I had always wanted to cast from India for these two characters, the parents, because I wanted to go to Bollywood. I’m a huge Bollywood fan, there’s a lot of talent out there.

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