The phrase: Opsimath. Definition: An individual who begins to be taught or research late in life.
The movie’s title is a metaphor, Day mentioned, for Monica’s malaise.
“While you’re up there doing the spelling bee as a contestant and you might be looking for extra time, you say ‘definition, please’ or ‘language of origin’ or ‘are you able to please repeat the phrase?'” she mentioned in an interview with CNN. “Not solely is that this younger girl a former spelling bee champion, however she can also be on the lookout for definition in her life.”
In different phrases, “Definition, Please” is a narrative about being caught and discovering your method out of the stoop. Alongside the way in which, Monica’s relationships together with her brother Sonny (Ritesh Rajan), her mom Jaya (Anna Khaja) and her greatest good friend Krista (Lalaine) — and people characters’ personal struggles — assist her work out methods to transfer ahead.
The query of methods to transfer ahead can also be on the heart of “Donkeyhead,” a movie from English-Canadian director Agam Darshi that can also be now on Netflix. It follows Mona (performed by Darshi), a failing author in her mid-30s who resides in her childhood dwelling in Canada together with her ailing Sikh father. When he falls right into a coma, Mona begins to unravel and her three siblings present as much as deal with issues.
Each movies, which had been not too long ago acquired by Ava DuVernay’s distribution firm Array, inform tales about kids of Indian immigrants (Bengali Hindus in “Definition, Please” and Sikh Punjabis in “Donkeyhead”). However as an alternative of their cultures taking heart stage, the characters grapple with stagnation and subvert cultural expectations — difficult the mannequin minority trope within the course of.
They depict deeply flawed characters
In “Donkeyhead,” Mona is the black sheep of the household — the one certainly one of her siblings who does not seem to have all of it collectively. She resists spiritual conference, pushing again when her aunt desires to host three days of steady Sikh prayers on the household dwelling. Her writing profession is in shambles after she failed to show in her e book draft. To prime all of it off, she’s having an affair with a married man.
Put one other method, Mona is the “donkeyhead” of the household.
“Sikh Punjabis clearly actually love their children, however they are often tough. The language could be tough. And it comes via within the child-rearing,” Darshi defined. “[My mom] would name me donkey each time I might do one thing silly. As a lot as it’s an insult, it is also a time period of endearment.”
However Mona can also be the one who stayed behind to care for his or her father after his most cancers analysis — regardless of the abuse she skilled at his arms when she was a baby. In doing so, Mona is attempting to show to her father that she’s greater than the “donkeyhead” he sees her as. However she’s additionally reckoning with the truth that when her father dies, she would possibly lastly be pressured to confront her aimless existence.
They’re each common and particular
“Donkeyhead” is directly common and particular. It is an exploration of messy household dynamics, compassion, forgiveness and self-discovery. But it surely tells that story via the distinct lens of a Sikh, Punjabi immigrant household — a demographic that has hardly ever been depicted with nuance and complexity on display.
“I actually needed to symbolize a messy, flawed South Asian girl as a result of I do not suppose we’ve sufficient of that in cinema,” Darshi mentioned. “And I actually needed to symbolize and create house for a Sikh, Punjabi man with a turban on digicam in a method that we have by no means seen earlier than both.”
Day had related ambitions for “Definition, Please.”
“What occurs in Western media and Hollywood tales is that they depict all Indians as the identical individuals, whereas there’s Gujaratis and Punjabis and South Indians and Bengalis,” she mentioned. “Sure, we’ve a variety of similarities however we additionally eat completely different meals, we put on completely different garments, all of our weddings are completely different. I actually needed to faucet into my tradition as a result of I like after I watch movies which can be very particular, but could be common to all individuals.”
“Definition, Please” nods to Bengali cleaning soap operas, sprinkles in Bangla phrases and reveals Monica co-sleeping together with her mother. However its characters are going through very actual challenges — Monica’s brother Sonny is battling bipolar dysfunction and the load of at all times being in comparison with his high-achieving youthful sister. His relations are coming to phrases with methods to perceive his situation. Monica is coping with her personal points.
“I needed to indicate the great thing about that common expertise and normalize us as individuals, whereas additionally having the tradition there as a background and never focusing the story on a personality’s battle with their tradition,” Day added.
They normalize not having all of it discovered
In the end, “Definition, Please” and “Donkeyhead” are coming-of-age tales of types — each exploring the sensation of being in a state of arrested growth even after adolescence.
“I like coming-of-age tales, and I at all times really feel like they’re considerably wasted on the younger,” Darshi mentioned. “I feel it is a lot extra fascinating to look at someone who’s near 40 having to begin over and having to comprehend that every part that they’d grown up with and believed in was maybe false — that they’ve to begin anew or that they’ve realized one thing they usually’re coming into their very own.”
In opposition to the expectations of a tradition that emphasizes achievement and success from an early age, the 2 movies normalize the expertise of being an grownup and never having all of it discovered. They sign that it is okay to be a late bloomer, or within the phrases of former spelling bee champion Monica Chowdry, an opsimath.