The Tiger Hunter is quite possibly the first movie this year that America needs to see.
What I discovered at the premiere of the indie flick: this film is not just another romantic comedy, not just another buddy comedy, but a story that illuminates and humanizes the difficulties of the immigrant struggle in a neat package that even the most westernized among us can understand. But funnily enough, when talking with Director/Co-Writer Lena Khana, it seems it didn’t set out to be. “At the beginning, I never thought ‘I’m gonna tell this immigrant story’ or ‘I’m gonna tell this story about minorities’ or anything like that. I started this story because I liked the story, and other people liked the story, there’s a father and son story. [But then] we were like, why don’t we show a story that shows how [these immigrants] came to this country, at a time decades ago when America was literally welcoming them into this land…it’s a little bit of a history lesson…it’s important to have things that are authentic” The accidental importance of the film is a sentiment that Rizwan Manji, one of the stars of the movie, echoes. “When we shot [the movie] I thought ‘oh this is a fun movie about the immigrant experience’ and it’s a comedy and I really liked it, I like the character, he’s lovable and all that stuff. It’s interesting how important the movie has become—accidentally. Because of whats going on it our political climate right now. To me, it’s almost a different movie than what we shot.”
It was a sentiment that most, if not all, the actors resounded. The landscape for immigrants in our country’s current state needs an immigrant positive film. Something none of them could have known during production back in 2014.
After speaking with the cast and crew, I was understandably excited to experience this new kind of film, a film that takes on some of America’s favorite genres (Rom-Com/Buddy-Com) sets them in the 70’s and fills them with a cast of brown faces, but my excitement was still tapered by wary. After all, indie flicks are usually a hit or miss. I was presently surprised when this one turned out to be a hit.
The story centers around a young Indian man, played by Danny Pudi, who moves to America in the 70’s only to find out the job he moved there for has been cut during a downsize, naturally hilarity ensues. The film was everything you hope a film with that description would be; moving, hilarious, and eye opening. Every single character was perfectly cast, from the leads lovable but bumbling roommates, to Karen David’s fiercely endearing love interest, it was clear that the casting was note perfect. Not only that, but the script struck the perfect balance between heartwarming and hilarious. Some stand out moments include Manji’s character’s obsession with the Dukes of Hazard (which results in more than a few moments of sidesplitting pay off) and the off the charts chemistry between Sami (Pudi) and Ruby (David), life long friends desperately trying to get Ruby’s father to approve of their love. But, despite how much I loved the film, one of the most interesting things of the night was Ms. Khana’s terse yet profound observation during a brief Q&A. “Stories aren’t as limited as we think they are.” Hollywood, please take note. America, please take note. There are stories out there that need to be told, that deserve to be told: people that deserve to be heard. I can’t word it any better than Ms. Kahn so I’ll just let her.
“[People that look like us] are missing. People are so excited about seeing people on screen that look like them and have their experiences and you need that sort of validation to just feel like you’re part of this country—which you are.”
The Tiger Hunter is in select theaters now. To find the theater nearest you go to thetigerhunter.com