It begins with a cat being let out of a box, and by the time the cat has crawled back into it, a father has reconnected with his estranged son, met up with an old flame, and come face to face with mortality.

The adorable feline plays a small but significant part in American film-maker Mahesh Pailoor’s directorial debut Brahmin Bulls, which is showing at the Mumbai Film Festival. The cat belongs to Sendhil Ramamurthy’s character Sidharth, a troubled architect whose life is a mess. He is estranged from his wife, hasn’t spoken to his widower father (played by Roshan Seth) in years, and wants to have nothing to do with the cat, which belongs to his wife, despite being advised by a friend that the pet can be used as a bargaining chip.

Brahmin Bulls is about an Indian family, but it’s unlike most movies by American film-makers of Indian extraction. The film deals with relationships rather than identity issues, and is firmly in the mould of East Asian observational family dramas, especially Taiwanese film-maker Edward Yang’s masterly multi-generational Yi Yi (there’s a moment in a hotel involving Seth’s Ashok and his ex, Helen, that alludes to a similar scene in Yi Yi). No weddings, no loud relatives, no hand-wringing over the loss of values, and not a trace of bhangra on the soundtrack. Written by Pailoor and Anu Pradhan, Brahmin Bulls explores a universal tale of multi-generational differences as experienced by two men who simply happen to be Indian.

“We were trying to get to do something more observational, to see how much honesty and realism we could get to," Pailoor says. “I have already made four short films that deal with identity and dislocation, and while these are important issues, I didn’t want to explore them any more."

A still from Brahmin Bulls

The movie grew out from a short film, also starring Ramamurthy. Apart from cobbling together funding for the independent project, Pailoor’s challenge was to expand the short film into a 96-minute feature. “It’s the story of any indie film—it took a while to make," says the 35-year film-maker, who was born and raised in Maine. “I had always wanted to tell the story of a father and son who are dealing with issues from their past. Three years ago, Anu and I hammered out the story. It is hard to talk about a film with two Indians in the lead in an American set-up, but we had a good producer who raised the money. We also pulled in every favour we could." Some bits in the film were from Paillor’s own life—his father had turned up one day at his doorstep without informing him, for instance.

Brahmin Bulls indicates just how comfortable some second-generation Americans with Indian roots are about the American experience. Brahmin Bulls flows out of the fact that people with Indian names and American values and attitudes are deeply entrenched in the country’s political, academic, scientific, financial and entertainment sectors. “Identity is always an issue when you were growing up, but many of us grew out of it," Paillor said. “I am an American first, and identity is not at the forefront of any conflict that I have faced."

Brahmin Bulls will be screened at 8.30pm on 19 October at BIG Metro, Screen 4 and on 22 October at Cinemax Versova Screen 1. For details, visit www.mumbaifilmfest.com

Kaphal

will be screened at the Mumbai Film Festival (17-24 October) at 3pm.

Goopy Gawaiiya Bagha Bajaiiya

10.15am, 19 October, Screen 3, BIG Metro and 20 October, Screen 4, Cinemax Versova.

Wild Berries (Kaphal)

3pm, 21 October, Screen 3, BIG Metro and 5.45pm 22 October, Cinemax Versova.

Powerless

5.30pm, 21 October, BIG Metro and 8.15pm, 22 October, Cinemax Versova.

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