Maybe the best TV pilot you haven’t seen on TV–Yet! Four South Asian women take New York with lively, fresh style by Little Brown Girl Productions.
Nominated for Best TV pilot at the 2018 New York City International Film Festival, DeSiCiTi‘s “Love Test” episode tweaks its inspiration, Sex and the City, by adding a more rounded portrait of four up and coming South Asian professional women as they navigate relationships, careers, and cultural assimilation in New York.
Appearance at the New York City International Film Festival
During a Q&A at the NYCIFF, Hiral Shah explained to the audience that the word “Desi” means “countrymen,” and offered that she plans to keep the South Asian cultural focus while developing the women’s American life stories. The term F.O.B. (“Fresh Off the Boat”) was new to some of the audience members and evoked an even louder laugh after the explanation. The comedic Bollywood dance sequence was a much-praised cultural clash moment in the episode.
Stars of DeSiCiTi
The main characters, Sarah Dhillon (Purva Bedi), Maya Mehta (Shetal Shah ), Laila Kapoor (Leena Manro), and Nina Khan (Puja Suri) have been thoughtfully developed beyond the conventional sitcom formula to move the show quickly to its greater purpose by co-writers, Actor Leena Manro and Hiral Shah, who also produced the pilot. Beneath the beautiful hairstyles and make up and yards of traditional garb, real women are trying to forge successful identities for themselves.
In the tradition of first-generation comedies, their parents may be seen to be clinging to old ways, such as arranged marriage and traditional garb, while these Desi women steer the occasionally jagged course of assimilation, occasionally learning that the best way to be American is to embrace the South Asian inside.
What about the Men of DeSiCiTi?
An admirable quality of this script is the way it turns the usual comedy formula on its head. The men provide the foils, while women do battle and grow through their life battles on the comic fields. Seasoned pros including Arjun Gupta, as Manbir, (Nurse Jackie) and Samrat Chakrabarti, as–hottie alert!–The Doctor Guy (numerous Hollywood, Bollywood, and mainstream U.S. TV credits) step up to support rather than overshadow the four leads. Sam Ghosh, Rock Kohli, as series leads Raj and The Gay Fiance, contribute rich plot lines along with Ashton Crosby who portrays Maya’s sexist law-firm boss, who chooses the blond Veronica (Dayna Laurie Thompson) as case lead despite her clearly inferior skills.
Awards Across Categories and Cultures
DeSiCiTi was also selected as one of six pilots chosen from 900 entries for presentation at the Banff World Television Festival (2018) in addition to receiving two Rosie awards from the Alberta Motion Picture Industries Association for Best Dramatic Production under 60 Minutes and Best Production Reflecting Cultural Diversity.
While the series pilot delivers obligatory sit-com archetypes, by the end of the episode, we’re surprised by how much we’ve learned about South Asians in urban America and the poignance of these four women’s experiences. The cultural fusion delighted the NYCIFF audience, and Producer/Writer Hiral Shah expects to continue exploring India’s culture in subsequent episodes when DeSiCiTi receives a greenlight for development.