An epic story of a family torn across two continents unfolds in just 70 minutes of home movie footage in I Is For India. The anxieties of separation and the struggle for integration are seen through the viewfinder of Dr Yash Pal Suri, who arrived in Britain in 1965 and immediately formed a deep attachment to his Super 8mm camera. The footage is nimbly woven together by his daughter, Sandhya Suri, to create a cinematic journal spun tight with drama and intrigue.
It's an acute case of homesickness that impels Dr Suri to buy two batches of recording equipment. He keeps one set to document his new life in Britain and sends the other to his loved ones back in India. So begins a decades-long exchange of film diaries, complete with narration, seeing the inevitable clash of cultures followed by a gradual, sometimes grudging assimilation. On the one hand, Dr Suri enjoys mowing the lawn on a Sunday afternoon, on the other, he longs for the sun-baked streets of Meerut.
"A RARE AND PRECIOUS INSIGHT"
What makes these cine-postcards so special is the unguarded narration. Dr Suri may as well be laying on the therapist's couch, airing his innermost feelings about the racism he endures while, at the same time, becoming deeply ensconced in the British way of life. In one entry, he mournfully suspects that returning to India would mark him as a stranger in his own land. His candid ruminations provide a rare and precious insight into the immigrant experience, but more than that, chime with a basic human need for belonging. As the doctor's children grow up and face increasingly complicated questions about their identity, the diaries build to a moving yet open-ended conclusion. It's a low-key film on the surface, but its themes remain as constant as the ground we walk on.
I Is For India is out in the UK on 3rd August 2007.