A lesbian daughter, an inter-race marriage and an inter-faith relationship. You can't have a Diaspora film without running into trouble with at least one of these relationship categories. This past weekend, we headed to the Vancouver Asian Film Festival, where we watched Life Goes On, a Brit-Asian film that manages to combine every Diaspora cliche in under two hours.
The Indian Diaspora has been covered in movies over and over again: the problems they/we face, how they/we try to fit in, etc. Enter Life Goes On. Rather than try and tell a story, or even have a consistent theme throughout the movie, the objective seems to be to put as many different "diasporic struggles" as possible into one film. Add in some terribly executed King Lear references and you have this film in a nutshell.
Life Goes On tells the story of a Hindu Bengali family living in the UK, beginning with the death of the mother (played by the eternally beautiful Sharmila Tagore). Over six days, the film follows the story of a father and his three daughters, and how they struggle to deal with both the death and each other's lives in the wake.
Rather than focus on telling what might have been a touching story, there instead has to be a side story for every kind of "problem" a South Asian living in Britain may have. In the middle of an intense exchange between the youngest daughter (Soha Ali Khan) and her Muslim lover, they are interrupted by a friend, simply to add a scene about Islamic extremism and why it's bad. Rather then focusing on a what might have been the key part of the plot in a decent film, the director adds a 30 second sequence that has no relevance to the story at all. Add to that a list of diaspora cliches: an outcast lesbian daughter, another daughter married to a non-Indian man, unmarried pregnancy (gasp!), the requisite cultural and generational clashes ("It's your culture, not mine!"), classical musical interludes, a Bollywood-esque dream sequence, and preaching about how we're all the same, Hindu or Muslim.
If the parts that were actually telling the main story were respectable, then the film may have been redeemable. Instead, the pace is something close to that of a snail stuck in tar, making the film seem like it was at least 4 hours long. And considering the heavyweights that were in this film, like Om Puri, the acting leaves you wishing that everyone in this film had died, not just the mother.
The only redeeming quality is the cinematography of London, which was absolutely amazing, from the first sequence to the end. So if you want to have a massive headache but wish to visit London, watch Life Goes On. Otherwise, you'd be better off staring at a wall for 2 hours.
Story By: Permveer Bains | www.vaff.org