The first frame of the film is tilted up to the sign, ‘Spirit of India’, and then we see 15-year-old Rhea scroll through a playlist and choose appropriate music to suit the mood of her family’s restaurant run by her widower father Arvind ( Abhay Deol).
The film then transports you into the life of this little Indian family who now lives in America and runs this specialty restaurant. Arvind is skilfully assisted by his mother-in-law Asha (Meera Sayal) and the teenage daughter Rhea (Avantika) and the younger son Rohan (Aryan Simhadri).
Although Rhea is very enthusiastic about everything she does – whether it’s her studies, school projects or work in the restaurant, her grandmother and teacher thinks she’s too serious a teenager. “She is young, she should enjoy life,” they tell Arvind.
Without Arvind knowing, Rhea is drawn to Max (Michael Bishop), a new school friend who is an amateur DJ. He teaches her how to create new music mixers because she tells him, “I want to add my game to my restaurant playlist, keep it fresh, and keep guests entertained.”
Soon Rhea is sucked into the music world and her life becomes a struggle. How she juggles her newfound love of music without giving up her commitment to her family forms the core of the narrative.
Although the plot is not particularly new, authors Josh A. Cagan and Carley Steiner’s manuscript maintain all the elements of fantasy, retaining the typical Disney tropes – a single father raising his children, wise life hours and diversity.
This movie is not about romance, but about how children have just begun to discover their true selves.
The tale contains many Indian emotions, Hindi film music and a jig of Asha. Inspired by Holi, Rhea arranges with her friends a fundraiser called ‘Festival of Color’, this juxtaposition of the festival into a fundraiser seems to be a forced attempt to make the content appeal to Native Americans.
Avantika, which looks like a younger version of Radhika Apte, is a natural on screen. She slides effortlessly into Rhea’s skin. Abhay Deol as Arvind and Meera Syal as Ashaji deliver what is expected of them. Anna Cathcart, Jahbril Cook and Kerri Medders as Rhea’s friends offer a cool and effortless performance. Michael Bishop as Max is subtle and subdued.
Overall, the film boasts a decent production quality and seems to be Disney’s first attempt at a crossover film.
–By Troy Ribeiro