American Desi, 18 Years On

The movie achieved cult status but there hasn’t been another one like it since. What will it take to make the next one?


Isha Aran


April 17, 2019

American Desi (2001), directed by first-time self-funded director Piyush Dinker Pandya was nearly a fluke in its success. The movie, made on a shoestring budget of $250,000, pulled in $1.1m globally in box office sales, thanks to Eros International, one of the largest international distributors of Indian films, which released it in 40 theaters across the US and Canada, and — later — India.

“Every desi person from age 25-40 in the US knows that film, has seen that film, can quote that film,” Saagar Shaik, an LA-based actor, comedian, and podcast host, said.  

The movie features college-bound Kris Reddy (Deep Katdare), who has excised any trace of his Indian heritage — starting with his name, which is actually Krishna Gopalreddy. Kris is excited to escape his Indian Hindu parents, only to find his worst nightmare come true: Rutgers has housed him with three other Indians who embrace their culture. When Kris falls for classmate Nina (Purva Bedi), also Indian American, he scrambles to impress her by becoming an expert on the part of himself that he’s shut out for his entire life. Antics ensue.

“It felt like we were pioneers,” said Bedi, who portrayed Nina. And yet, in the 18 years since the movie’s release, there have been virtually no successful films about South Asian Americans made by South Asian Americans. And, while Pandya has written other material, he has never made another movie.

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