From the title, Arranged Marriage sounds as if it will be a feel-good romantic comedy, but Anoop Rangi’s incisive film is the complete opposite. After the opening of Arranged Marriage ends in an unexpected bloodbath, it becomes clear that Rangi has a bold vision and something important to say. His strange horror comedy satirizes patriarchal and cultural South Asian traditions that prevent a woman from living freely.
Megha Sandhu plays Kamali, a young woman of Desi descent and child of immigrants who assimilates into Western culture and defies her family’s strict rules. She works at Bikini World, wears skimpy clothes, goes to clubs, and has a white boyfriend. Kavi Raz, Shruti Tewari, and Balinder Johal play her orthodox family members with a theatrical quirkiness. They force Kamali into an engagement that she tries to fight until her Western friends start dying in gruesome ways.
It can be challenging to get into the rhythm of this film. Everything is highly exaggerated in order to point out the inconsistencies in both Eastern and Western values. None of the characters and the choices they make are rooted in realism. They are painted in broad strokes in order to make a larger statement about the ways in which America discriminates against minorities and the cracks within conservative cultures. For instance, Clive quickly transforms from fetishizing Kamali’s culture into a nasty zealot. Also, Jose Rosete plays a detective with a Hitler mustache who dismisses Kamali’s anxieties about the murders and ridicules her heritage. Sandhu does an exceptional job of making her character’s conflicts believable while still matching the film’s ostentatious tone.
Arranged Marriage initiates an important conversation about toxic masculinity and racism but isn’t easy to watch. The glaring tonal shifts—reflected in the switch from the bright colors of a Bollywood-influenced comedy to the sinister shadows and blood reds of the horror genre—can be whiplash-inducing, especially with Rangi’s wild, over-the-top shots. But once you get into its groove, it becomes easier to appreciate this inventive work. Arranged Marriage is a singular film with a lot of nerve that tackles the conflicts of South Asian culture. It has a sharp script that eviscerates sexism and bigotry with a nasty edge.