Credit: IFC
by Zachary Goldkind Featured Film Horizon Line

Four Samosas — Ravi Kapoor

November 30, 2022

Four Samosas cribs too liberally without any understanding of how to integrate such influences.

At the risk of seeming belligerent or otherwise unfair, Ravi Kapoor’s sophomore outing inspires, incontrovertibly, an aversive response. Four Samosas clings to a straining aesthetic emulation — an ideologically regressive derivative of Wes Anderson — yet derisively so (and oblivious to it): its formal aspirations falter at the hands of more conventional characterization. In a very lackadaisical narrative that follows Vinny (Venk Potula), we watch, from a distance, the hijinks of a small band of misfits whose aimless intentions (manifested in the form of a poorly conceived heist) are an extrapolation of their own positionalities: lives stuck, wandering the Artesian landscape in search not of purpose, but of agency. It’s a well-meaning enough allegory, but reveals, in its writhing aestheticism, the sneering comedy it projects onto every soul on camera. Characters are reduced to amateur-night-stand-up parodies, and there’s a contradictory cruelty in such passive handling. Kapoor’s script incessantly reminds us of these characters’ desires, their want for a semblance of self-control and self-esteem, and yet the director seems only to want to depict them as bumbling caricatures, concerned ultimately with immediate vanity as placed before them by contrived screenwriting. In attempting to make audiences laugh, the film throws its own humanity under the bus, making a spectacle of its characters’ insecurities without a single gesture toward reckoning — in fact, its mid-credits scene further enshrines its mean-spirited desire to reduce and categorize.

Something that consistently intrigues, however, is how in the creation of a purposeful derivation, a filmmaker will almost always show their failure to understand the initial stylings they’re lifting from. Anisha Acharya’s edit here is what shows Kapoor’s hand. Anderson’s edits are incisive and pre-planned; they are a part of a cartographic inclination that he bakes into the very narrative of his work. Space is always being rediscovered and redefined by how or who becomes repositioned. In short, there is no superfluous cut between wide and medium close-ups so as to engender pace because pace in an Anderson title is constructed in-camera and organized with the cut. Acharya’s edits flail back and forth between disparate coverages. Certainly such haphazardness can be sympathized with, as Kapoor’s own aesthetic intentions are utterly unclear and arrogantly unfocused, and the editor is left scrambling to assemble disparate ideas and thematic sequences together. Look no further than Four Samosas’ final scene, wherein we find Vinny in a muddled attempt at defining the themes of the film via narration. But he seems quite unsure about them even here, and such a seemingly purposeful reflexivity is indicative of the work’s lack of cogency.

Originally published as part of SDAFF 2022 — Dispatch 2.