Christmas is a time of good tidings,and given the growing commercialism surrounding it, it's easy to lose sight of the true meaning and the spirit of Christmas, which bodes opportunity for husband-wife team of Matthew Ing and Olivia Loh to come up with a family fantasy drama that examines pressures and expectations from within two Asian families, working with Bettermen Asia's Randy Ang who helms this telemovie for the new Mediacorp online video on demand and interactive broadcasting platform Toggle.sg.
Filled with familiar faces from local television and film, Curry Curry Christmas, despite its title, has little to do with cooking, or presenting a melting pot of cultures celebrating the season. Instead, it's set roughly about the time of the year, where two families have to work their internal differences and pressures amongst family members, dealing with traditions versus modernity, and having very real world scenarios serve as the catalyst where relations sour. Coincidentally this morning I was presented with a situation where the older generation was showing off their offspring and their offspring's offspring, wondering why I am not taking advantage of the carrots being dangled for not hooking up, getting that government apartment, and accumulating baby bonuses. But that's another story for another day, although it instantly put me in the shoes of some of the protagonists in the story.
Perhaps it's an Asian thing to want to compare, and largely this story deals with two different sets of mothers/in-laws having expectations of their children getting a life partner, and then proceeding to the next stage of giving them grandchildren, lots of them, in what would be trying to impose what they couldn't achieve, onto the next generation. The neighbours A-Mei (Catherine Sng) and Bhavna (Daisy Irani) play the two matriachs who have a lot of say in the story, and their draconian methods somehow become the cause of breakdowns that through the course of the film, all characters have to mitigate damage done. A-Mei constantly encourages her son James (Richard Low) and grandson Jonathan (Adam Chen) to find a partner to look after them before she's gone, and frowns upon their chosen ones with preconceived notions and set prejudices without getting to know those persons better. Equally old-fashioned is the mindset held by Bhavna that her son Ramesh (Gunalan Morgan) and daughter-in-law Aidah (Sonia Ratonel) quickly provide her with grandchildren. And to make things worse, Bhavna still holds onto the traditional attitudes and duties of a wife, which accelerates discontent amongst Ramesh and Aidah.
While there are two families here with issues to iron out, the narrative did feel a little bit lopsided toward the Indian family's plight, perhaps due to the "Curry Curry" titular nature. After all, Bhavna's husband Gopal (Subin Subaiah) is responsible for including special curry powder brought from a remote ashram in India, which is the special fantasy ingredient in his Curry Curry Paradise famous samosas that makes people open their eyes and hearts, and to some, serve as the additional mojo that ignites red hot passion. This side of the family also scored one of the best scenes in the film, where Bhavna and Aidah butt it out confrontational style with the latter finding it incredulous that the former had the cheek to spell out things like tradition, culture, duty, responsibility and obligation in very old fashioned terms that she'd expect her daughter-in-law to adhere to, especially Filial Payment. "In an Indian family you marry the son, and the family too!". Ouch!
And to bring the story to feature film length there were the smaller subplots that somehow didn't make as much of an impact, such as the on-off romantic entanglement between Jonathan and his older-aged boss Ruth (Constance Song) who comes with a reputation of having a thing for younger male associates in the company, Ramesh's dance studio business which had a dopey Caucasian (Patrick Kinghorn) of an Internet sensation, blessed with groovy moves, helping out with pulling in more women to enrol, and also to up the comedic ante. On the emotional flipside, Ramesh has one more story arc involving his attempts to try and persuade Uncle Choo (Vincent Tee), an ex pawnshop owner who knows kung-fu, to part with a ring that belongs to Aidah's mom, being the last and most treasured artefact Aidah has of her. But as much as this should have been utterly moving, this somewhat turned out to be void of genuine feelings as the scenes dragged out for far too long, losing emotional resonance with each line of dialogue that involved a character created out of sheer convenience.
Technically, the cinematography here tended to play it safe for a family drama, with the usual tracking shots employed by the same school of thought here that's seen in most telemovies. Sound however was inconsistent at segments, especially during outdoor scenes, but shouldn't perturb the casual viewer since dialogues were clear. One may have thought since this was streaming from a website that quality may have been compromised, but for what it's worth I'm on a fibre connection, and streaming from local sites should be fine without the expected lags from buffering. Sylvia Ratonel lends her vocals for the theme song First Love, which is memorable. Toggle.sg will screen this again on their channel at 9pm tonight, and again on New Year's Day at 5pm on Channel 5. The film's runtime is approximately 100 minutes, before having the rest of its two hour timeslot filled with some behind the scenes clips.