Sapphic Cinema: “Nina’s Heavenly Delights”


Hello and welcome back to Sapphic Cinema. I’d like to thank everyone who submitted their suggestions in the comment section last week. As a reminder: this column only covers films that have already been released for at least five years so Kyss Mig will have to wait (but you’re not missing much, since the only commentary I can offer is a gif of my tongue lolling out of my mouth like a cartoon wolf).  I will certainly do Fingersmith in the near future (we just did Tipping The Velvet), and same with Chutney Popcorn (we just did a movie I’d never seen). I had never heard of Yes or No until y’all suggested it, and I dutifully checked it out on YouTube, and I hate to tell you this, but I hated it. Like, I don’t know if our cultures are too different or it’s just a really bad movie, but I will spend the next 20 years in film critic therapy trying to figure it out.

So after all that, the winner was 1996’s Nina’s Heavenly Delights, which is great because it’s one of my favorites.



I always get halfway through NHD before I remember what I like about it. If nothing else, it has one of the most oddly specific plots of all time: centering as it does on an all-important curry competition conducted by the Indian community of Glasgow, Scotland. In the world of this film, reputations are staked, families are broken, and ghostly spirits are laid to rest based on the outcome of this competition. The entire United Kingdom glued to their televisions to watch as five Indian restaurants stir sauces, and if you can’t accept that, then you’re going to have trouble with this movie.



Into this world comes Nina, the prodigal daughter of a family of restaurateurs, returned from her rebellious years just in time for her dad’s funeral. Not to worry: his ghost makes appearances throughout the film, haunting the family he by all accounts failed personally and professionally.  He squandered their money with his gambling, trapped his wife into staying with him, banned his youngest daughter from dancing the highland fling, and tried to push Nina into an arranged marriage despite knowing she had been an avowed homo from the age of nine. Despite that, he hovers over all the action, scattering marigolds and giving horrible cooking advice (“Forget the recipe; follow your heart.”)




Nina herself (Shelley Conn) is beautiful, clever, and must have been something of a rebel to flee her family’s expectations, but the reason I am here is Lisa (Laura Fraser).



You remember Laura Fraser from Lip Service, where she played Cat, who was in the process of becoming quite a terrible person before she was unceremoniously hit by a car.




She’s nothing but charming in this, though, as the woman who happily took Nina’s father’s money, and now holds the deed to the family restaurant, The New Taj. She is also assumed by everyone to be Nina’s brother’s boyfriend. The plan is to sell the restaurant to their arch-rivals/Nina’s ex fiancé (I know this is getting confusing but stick with me), but Nina can’t bring herself to go along with this. She discovers that her father secretly entered the New Taj in the previously mentioned curry competition, and she vows to win it to avenge his (by all accounts shitty) honor.

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