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Movie Review | The Illegal: An instigating peek into dreams and reality

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The Illegal movie review is here. The 2019 Indian American English-language drama film is written and directed by Danish Renzu. Produced by Tara Tucker, and Danish Renzu, The Illegal stars Suraj Sharma, Iqbal Theba and Shweta Tripathi in the lead roles. The Illegal is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

The Illegal movie review

Of people, places, dreams, reality and spaces, Danish Renzu’s ‘The Illegal’ deals with these vicious cycles of an American dream of an Indian with heart and leaves behind some fodder for thought.

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Running on the familiar plot line of an Indian immigrant struggling to pursue the great American dream – somewhat similar in theme with Mira Nair’s 2006 ‘Namesake’ starring Irrfan Khan and Tabu.

Danish Renzu’s ‘The Illegal’ works because it’s weaved with a heart that bleeds with earnestness, need and melancholy.

It must be understood that the immigrant in ‘The Illegal’ lands in America not in a desperation bid to survive but to follow his dream. Haasan (Suraj Sharma) belongs to a middle class Indian Muslim family and he has already bagged the admission to the world’s best school in filmmaking in LA. His father played by Adil Hussain has taken a loan which will be paid by Hassan when he starts earning.

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Hassan faces betrayal from his own uncle who cannot afford his stay, the uncle is still healing the wounds of his American dream which got stabbed years ago.

Hassan roams like a vagabond in LA and lands up in front of Babaji (Iqbal Thepa) a caretaker of an Indian Cuisine – The New Delhi Café. Hassan swings between the restaurant and his class rooms. One day he finds himself caught between his dream and reality. His own mirror in Babaji starts developing as he finds the veteran caretaker of the hotel – the only person with whom the owner – Zayen Khan (Jay Ali) speaks with some respect. Babaji has been repaying the loan of his father since ages. What about Hassan’s father’s loan for his course? How will he complete his course, when he has to survive first then think of living his dream? Will his dream crash like millions of people like him? Hassan is on a student visa, when will Hassan return to India? And when will Babaji return to his home country and see his daughter who has grown up and is about to be married? The Illegal asks this pertinent question.

The wonderful performance adds tremendous value.

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Suraj Sharma (the Life of Pi fame) is a picture of poignance piously portrayed. Shweta Tripathi as sister Mahi has her moments. Adil Hussain has a short role but makes an impact. Iqbal Theba as Babaji is fantastic.

Jay Ali as Zayen Khan is impressive. Neelima Azim as Mummy makes her presence felt especially in those moments when she shows concern for Hassan. Hannah Masi as Jessica – the dream/fantasy in Hassan’s story is charming.

Danish Renzu moves from Kashmir ( Half Widow) to LA and is successful in adding that layer of loan/debt of fathers/grandfathers passed on to the next generations. Thankfully Hassan’s religion is not a hindrance in this heartfelt tale.

What an irony, in this age of what we say globalization, the debt of fathers / forefathers is still paid by their sons and grandsons. What is a dream and at what price it comes to a common man? So, is it rational to dream big?

Cameraman Antonio Cisnero’s frames add voice to the journey. Music by Éric Neveux adds to the atmosphere.

Final words

‘The Illegal’ is a poignant take on people, places, dreams, reality and spaces. It doesn’t matter where you are placed in the world.

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