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UK Asian Film Festival Gala Opening 2024 – actor Saba Azad leads the way with World Premiere of ‘Minimum’ (+gallery)

UK Asian Film Festival Gala Opening 2024 –  actor Saba Azad leads the way with World Premiere of ‘Minimum’ (+gallery)

BOLLYWOOD glamour mixed with young upcoming British Asian talent on the red carpet last night as the UK Asian Film Festival got underway at the BFI IMax cinema in London’s Southbank.
Saba Azad, who has been pictured with Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan, featured as she stars in the Opening Gala Film of UKAFF, ‘Minimum’ (see review below).
Azad is the support in the film and plays a French language tutor to the main protagonist played by US Belgian Rumana Molla. She not only stars but has written and directed ‘Minimum’ – which also includes a cameo by veteran star Naseeruddin Shah. Set in Belgium, it charts the fate of a bride married over the phone from her native India and landing up in a Brussels household where her husband (Ali) is not what she expected and the mother in law is domineering.
Among the other stars in attendance were Priya Kansara, the star of ‘Polite Society’, Jason Patel, the lead actor of ‘Unicorns’ and Shafina Patel Shah, who is in the controversial 2023 Indian film, ‘Animal‘.
Festival co-founder Dr Pushpinder Chowdhry and artistic director Samir Bhamra welcomed guests to a buffet dinner reception before the screening of the film.
Today sees the screening of a Pakistani title, ‘Gunjal’ at Regent Street Cinema in central London. It Is from 7pm – tickets here
UK Asian Film Festival May 2-12 –

Sweet, sentimental and uplifting

Sukdeep Singh (Naseeruddin Shah) and Fauzia (Rumana Molla) in ‘Minimum

A LOT will depend on what you expect from a film such as ‘Minimum’ – decent story, believable characters, good acting and professional production values.
That it delivers on all these fronts and more – should be enough to tell you that it is a reasonable watch.
But for us, in the UK, the story is a little bit old hat, as you might say.
The duped bride – Fauzia (Rumana Molla) is an earnest well-meaning and likeable character – she wants to be the good wife but finds herself with a man who has some issues, shall we say.
It isn’t clear what that is, from Ali’s portrayal here, played by Namit Das. Is he autistic, does he have Aspergers or more severe learning difficulties? It isn’t exactly clear.
Having said that, it’s a familiar scenario where a marriage will be made with one party not quite knowing all that they should.
Rukshana – Fauzia’s mother-in-law (Geetanajli Kulkarni) – is a battleaxe and breaks down easily when the going gets tough – why she has put up with Ali’s challenging behaviour and not sought professional help is a little bewildering too.
But let’s leave aside these real world practical questions – there is a lovely ensemble chemistry at work and at the heart of the film is a very believable and powerful female friendship.
Laurie – played by Saba Azad – is Fauzia’s French language tutor and a Belgian native. Their evolving friendship is what gives the film much energy and spirit and provides ‘Minimum’ with the kind of arc you want from a film that will leave you smiling and in a better frame of mind than when you started watching, probably.
Naseeruddin Shah has a cameo role as a long-established shopkeeper and comes in the latter half of the film.
He makes an impassioned speech which doesn’t mean a lot in the context of the film and there are a few other loose ends that also never get resolved. The use of French, English and Hindi is a little inconsistent (it is subtitled throughout in English) but not a major issue.
Overall, Molla should be commended for starring, directing and writing and pulling this all off – where it slightly detracts is that the story and the characters are a little too stereotyped – and that the film could probably do more with the Fauzia-Laurie kinship than it does. Nevertheless, it’s good to see films such as this emerge from the wider European South Asian immigrant experience
Acv rating: *** (out of five)


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Written by Asian Culture Vulture