Arranged Marriage is a take-no-prisoners satire about cross-cultural patriarchal norms that destroy a woman’s ability to make her own choices. Kamali (Megha Sandhu) is a woman of Desi descent who grew up in the West and sees herself as such. She goes to clubs. She dances. She denies elements of her traditional heritage. Her boyfriend, Clive (Jordan Williams), is even trying to learn some Desi phrases. Unfortunately, Kamali’s father (Kavi Raz), mother (Shruti Tewari) and grandmother (Balinder Johal) disagree with Kamali’s life choices and arrange a surprise marriage for her. What would already be a life-altering crisis grows serious when Kamali’s male friends start dying in gruesome fashion.
The script by director Anoop Rangi takes aim at both Western culture and Desi culture, skewering the nastier side of both majority and minority cultural dispositions. It is unrelenting to the point of becoming somewhat disorienting and unfocused. Rather than honing in on specific thematic ideas, Rangi fires from all directions, turning all of his characters into madmen (or women) in service of broader statements about the way we ruin one another through passive cruelty.
It’s effective enough, though, to hold this horror-comedy together. Although the premise sounds like the makings of a romantic comedy, this is in fact a pretty gory slice of cinema, often in service of a visual punchline.
Sandhu is the standout of the cast as the lead, and she has to take her protagonist through a whole number of emotions as all of the men in her life either die or start to control her. She has enough complexity to duke it out with the lousy world around her.
Arranged Marriage can feel a little all over the place at times, but it comes together well enough to serve as a relevant parable about the way toxic masculinity exists within all cultures, even if it rears its head in different forms. It’s also smart enough to tackle the premise without offering easy answers to the problem. Like a good horror film, it ends on a note that sticks with you.