Bala Rajashekurani's new film tells of non-resident Indians' bitter experiences in a land that won't have them without putting them through an ordeal by fire.
When at the end our protagonist Murali (Vikram Dasu) breaks down in the courtroom, he says: "I came here to look for a better life. Is that wrong?"
"Green Card Fever" isn't the best film on the American Born Confused Desi theme. The "Indian in America" has lent itself to many movie interpretations in recent times, from the sassy "American Desi" to the mellow, mature "Leela".
"Green Card Fever" has plenty of semi-actors on both ends of the racial line trying to look cynical and caustic. It also takes peculiarly pale pot shots at the illegal Indian abroad. The pathetic plight of Murali and his friends staying downtown in the US like fugitives is compounded by their thick accents.
Fortunately, Rajasekharuni gets on with telling the story, creating a clasp of credible characters trapped in the diaspora. Strangely the American characters, like the judge at the climax, appear more caricatured than the Indians.
What saves this film from being one of many such flicks is its unflinching honesty about the green-card searcher. Murali wants it desperately and he wants it now. But he suffers from an inexcusable Indian dilemma: he has a conscience.
Just how that comes in the way of his acclimatisation to an alien land is the crux of producer-director Bala Rajasekharuni's quirky and warm narrative.
Though the film suffers from first-time clumsiness (for example, the scene where Murali breaks down before the charlatan businessman and asks for his passport back is unabashedly mawkish and ineffectual, and so is the purposely comic scene where Bharti pretends to be a striptease dancer in front of her prospective groom), there are mildly memorable episodes in this sporadically nice film.
The picnic sequence where Murali's friends egg him on to follow the second-generation American Bharti (Purva Bedi) into the woods with the words of the wise "Haven't you seen any Hindi films?" is tempting in its tremulous awkwardness.
In scenes such as this you don't know who's being more oafish, the first-time director or his apologetic protagonist who like a virgin kisser keeps apologising for his ambitions all across his search for that coveted green card.
Bharti's dilemma as a woman who has lost sight of her roots is effectively adumbrated in one sequence at her American boyfriend's birthday, where the boy's father humiliates her by likening his son to Mother Teresa who takes pity on the poor Indian girl and brings her home to the American family.
But hey, is that reason enough for Bharathi to gravitate towards the simple and uncomplicated Indian boy Murali?
The performances are amateurish. And the dialogues seem to be borrowed from pavement pulp-fiction. Though the narrative takes simplistic swipes at the immigrant's plight, "Green Card Fever" has enough glimmers of sunrays falling on its potentially far-reaching canvas to keep us interested in the occasionally-strained, often-ruthless saga of the rootless.