Director/producer Pratibha Parmar uses her own life as inspiration for Nina's Heavenly Delights, a feel-good comedy set against a culinary backdrop. But the spice isn't quite right in this mild cinematic offering which centres on Nina Shah (Shelley Conn), a feisty young Scottish Asian woman engaged in her own personal identity crisis. Sexuality, family politics, friendship and the perfect chicken curry are just some of the dishes served up and cleared away after a quick taster. If only real life and home cooking were that simple.
Having left Glasgow after a row with her father, his sudden death brings Nina back home to the Shah family and their award wining Indian restaurant, The New Taj. Her return also brings her face to face with some surprises: her father's gambling debts, a bitter ex-fiancé, a childhood friend turned Bollywood drag queen and confusing romantic feelings for her new business partner Lisa (Laura Fraser). But all of these are left simmering on the back burner while Nina dons an apron and attempts to win the Best Of The West curry competition in memory of papa.
"LACKS ENERGY AND BOLDNESS"
Compared to previous British films with an Asian flavour, such as East Is East and My Beautiful Launderette, Parmar's pet project lacks energy and boldness when tackling prickly subjects like culture clash and lesbianism. Instead of devoting surplus screen time to Conn and Fraser's slow cooking, Parmar would have been better off delving out of the kitchen and deeper into the mixed fortunes of a multicultural family and their troubled psyches. Like a dainty appetiser, Nina's Heavenly Delights tries but fails to fill you up.