'For Here or to Go?': Film Review

Courtesy of Falco Ink
Just because it's topical doesn't make it engrossing.

A young Indian immigrant struggles to stay in the U.S. in Rucha Humnabadkar's timely comedy/drama.

The subject matter’s topicality doesn’t provide sufficient compensation for the many dull patches in Rucha Humnabadkar’s comedy/drama about a young Indian immigrant struggling to get his work visa extended. Despite the fact that it was made two years ago, For Here or to Go? taps into the current controversy over immigration issues. Unfortunately, however, it’s neither dramatic nor funny enough to fully engage a broad audience, although it may prove of interest to Indian-Americans looking for something different from Bollywood imports. (Not that the director avoids all Bollywood tropes, since the film inevitably includes a gratuitous musical production number.)

The story centers on Vivek (Ali Fazal), a Silicon Valley software engineer and “temporary alien worker” employed here on an HB-1 visa. After several frustrating years working for a large company, Vivek has landed an exciting new job at a healthcare startup. But when his prospective employers learn that his work visa has only one year left, they withdraw the offer.

While dealing with his employment crisis, Vivek meets and falls in love with beautiful law school graduate Shweta (Melanie Kannokada), whom he meets at a “Bollywood Speed Dating” event. Coincidentally, her entrepreneur father (Rajit Kapur) has begun a campaign to encourage successful Indians to return to their home country where their talents will be more needed and better appreciated.

Much of the film’s running time is spent depicting Vivek’s interactions with his quirky roommates, including one (Omi Vaidya) who’s deeply worried about coming out. The young men’s lives are thrown into further turmoil when a temporary guest turns out to be attending an illegal university and the ensuing investigation lands them all on an FBI watch list. “We are bonded laborers of the new age,” one of them bitterly comments.

Although the film obviously touches on hot-button issues from a humanistic perspective, it fails to make us invested in its lead characters’ fates. The novice helmer, working from a clunky script by writer/producer Rishi S. Bhilawadikar, displays little grasp of tonal consistency or pacing. And the quality of the performances is all over the map, although Fazal (Furious 7) and Kannokada (Code Black) are appealing as the romantic leads and Kapur proves compelling as Vivek’s mentor, who urges him to return to his native country.  

Production company/distributor: Many Cups of Chai Films
Cast: Ali Fazal, Melanie Kannokada, Rajit Kapur, Amitosh Nagpal, Omi Vaidya, Samart Chakrabarti
Director: Rucha Humnabadkar
Screenwriter: Rishi. S. Bhilawadikar
Producers: Vineet Sinha, CC Chainey, Rucha Humnabadkar, Rishi. S. Bhilawadikar
Executive producers: Jayan Ramankutty Vibha Jayan, Anil Sippy, Ketan Humnabadkar, Aaron Sakowski, Niket Biswas, Roger Wang, Deepak Ravindran
Director of photography: Tristan Nyby
Production designer: Kendra S. Dawkins
Editor: Abhjit Deshpande
Composer: Peter Scartabello

105 minutes

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