Review of “When Kiran Met Karen”

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While small-budget films are fortunate if they can generate

pre-release buzz, doing so can also inflate audience expectations. By the time

last week’s premiere of director Manan Katohora’s When Kiran Met Karen rolled around, anyone familiar with the

project had been hearing about it for a good 19 months. But even after accounting

for what a set-up that kind of hype presents, the movie is ultimately disappointing.

The basic premise is sound. Kiran Lohar (Chriselle Almeida)

— or K. Lo, according to the tabloids — is a rising Bollywood star who’s in New

York for the premiere of her latest blockbuster, A Himalayan Love Story, produced by her mega-rich music mogul

fiancé, Dev Ghosh (Samrat Chakrabarti). Karen Sorens (Kelli Holsopple) is a fledgling

reporter for Reel Women magazine who wants

an exclusive interview with Kiran.

Warning: Spoilers

The eponymous meeting between the two takes place after

Kiran flees a press conference for her new film in a diva-like huff once the

line of questioning takes a turn for the personal. Karen pounces on the same

cab Kiran has just hailed, seizing the opportunity for a private audience with

the starlet.

Left to right: Kelli Holsopple, Samrat Chakrabarti, Chriselle Almeida

At first, Kiran — who rolls her eyes throughout the first

half of the film — has no interest in talking to her fellow rider. But Karen,

who is white, catches Kiran’s attention by demonstrating that she speaks Hindi,

even if she has a tendency to bungle the pronunciation. It’s a successful ploy,

and soon Kiran is actually engaged enough to point out Karen’s culturally insensitive

failure to distinguish between Hindu and Hindi.

Kiran goes home and tells Dev about the obnoxious

Hindi-butchering American journalist who wants to interview her, and he

eventually convinces her to go through with it. But while one might expect the

women to hurtle toward an inevitable affair, a good 90 minutes of film rolls

before a romantic encounter of any sort unfolds between them.

The primarily female audience at the world-premiere

screening in Philadelphia on July 12 seemed positively squirmy during the

film’s first love scene — a lengthy one between Kiran and Dev, and perhaps not

what the queer-film festival goers turned out hoping to see.

The florid soundtrack also hampers the intended effect of this and other

scenes.

Kiran and Karen’s only love scene, at more than three

quarters of the way into the film, has its own distracting musical

accompaniment. Even if you’re able to get through the cheesiness that

overshadows the action, you will still have to contend with odd special effects

(blue clouds undulating over the house) and post-coital weeping (presented

without explanation, as if it’s an inevitable result of ladies hooking up).

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