Two Dosas

By Sarmad Masud | Comedy
A geek takes a date to an Indian restaurant. To his horror, she goes off-menu in Hindi.

Pavan — a teacher in London who grew up in England — takes fellow educator Chloe on a date. Pavan aims to impress “English rose” Chloe by taking her to the most authentic Indian restaurant in the city and eventually winning her over with a confident “heart on the sleeve, sleeve in her face” approach to romance.

But then Chloe upend Pavan’s expectations, ordering an “authentic” Indian dish off-menu, demonstrating a rapport with the restaurant staff by speaking Hindi and eventually revealing to Pavan her past romance with another Indian man, who she backpacked with through India.

Pavan — who ordered the somewhat cliched dosas at the restaurant — becomes insecure, questioning his own authenticity as an Indian when faced with Chloe’s obvious fluency with his supposedly “native” culture. As the night’s misadventures continue, Pavan realizes he must either accept himself as he is, or spend the evening trying to keep up in a race he may not win.

Directed by Sarmad Masud, and written by Masud and Nikesh Shukla, this charming, nimble British short is both a romantic and social comedy that upturns notions about cultural authenticity while entertaining with a deft cocktail of witty writing, fluid camerawork and endearing performances.

What works so well in the script is how it takes questions about ethnicity, authenticity and even post-colonialism and integrates them beautifully into the emotional fabric of the short.

Pavan assumes his “otherness” as a British-born South Asian man gives him an advantage with Chloe, but the storytelling delightfully unravels this assumption about Pavan, and about Chloe as well. The film plays her enthusiasm for Indian culture as both genuine, and perhaps gently questioning the idea of the “cultural tourist.” But despite the potential weightiness of topics like race and colonialism, there’s no heavy-handedness in the wonderfully jazz-like dialogue or the effervescent comic timing of the film and actors.

Actor Himish Patel — now appearing in feature film “Yesterday” — anchors the film with a great turn as Pavan, who balances awkwardness, charm, and bashful flickers of both vulnerability and confidence in such a way to make Hugh Grant jealous. With each specific beat, he adroitly steers the femotional arc of “Two Dosas” into its final movement towards realization and acceptance. It’s not that he’s not Indian enough, he realizes — it’s that he and Chloe aren’t a good fit. And in the end, he just needs a girl who loves dosas as much as he does.

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