Mississippi Masala (1991) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Two thumbs up. Scoop's comments in white.

Cultural "Fish out of water" stories don't really make up my favorite kind of movies. Not only that, but I generally detest all corny "lovers from warring cultures" stories written since Shakespeare died. This film has both of those characteristics, but I enjoyed it anyway. It is the story of an Indian family who fled the Idi Amin regime in Uganda, only to end up in Mississippi. The father dreams of returning to Africa, but his headstrong daughter just wants to try to make some kind of normal life for herself as an American. She falls in love with an American black guy. Her family disapproves. It goes on from there.

It is more than just another bullshit re-telling of Romeo and Juliet. It's a good movie, and I'd say it has some real strengths:

1. It is genuine. The characters seem like real people talking, and the situations seem like real things which could have happened to them. It is refreshingly honest and uncontrived. The characters do make progress in their lives, but only the small changes possible within realistic parameters for the time covered by the plot. It was written by an Indian, directed by another, and the saga of the Indian-Ugandans, and their exodus to the American South, is based on what really happened during the time of Amin.

2. It is thoughtful. Stranded among some people who are called African-Americans, yet who have no psychological or emotional bond to Africa of any kind, we find our Indian protagonist who is not considered an African by the black people, yet who truly loves Africa and lives within his memories of the sights and sounds and smells of Uganda. 


Sarita Choudhury shows her breasts in a sex scene.

Denzel Washington shows his butt after the sex scene.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1.

3. One of the stars of this 1991 film is a great actor who would eventually become a very famous and powerful star. I am speaking, of course, of Pauly Shore. No, just kidding. Denzel Washington plays the daughter's love interest.

4. While I didn't much care about the Mississippi scenes one way or another, I found the scenes in Africa very impressive and evocative

Tuna's Thoughts

Mississippi Masala (1991) was reviewed recently by Scoop, who liked it even though it is not his kind of film. It is my kind of film, and I like it very much. There are really three stories going on at once. First, and Indian family is expelled from Uganda by the Amin regime, even though they were born there, and were citizens. After a stay in the UK, they ended up in a small town in Mississippi. This part of the story was inspired by the fact that many Indians own small business and hotels in the south. The Indian community keeps much of their culture and heritage, while the exile's daughter Mina (Sarita Choudhury) is, at least, partly Americanized. The second story is that of race relations among blacks, Indians and whites. The third, and main, thread starts when Mina rear ends carpet cleaner Denzel Washington. The slowly progress from can't keep their eyes off of each other to can't keep their hands off of each other.

They become the classic Shakespearean star crossed lovers when they are discovered in a motel together. Meanwhile, Mena's father is trying to sue Uganda for his confiscated property. Washington and Choudhury are completely believable as the young people in lust and love, and would be enough to sustain the story, but the cultural interaction of everyone in this small town was also fascinating. The images, both in Uganda and Mississippi are amazing.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: three to three and a half stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Austin Chronicle 4/5.

  • The film won some film festival and indie awards.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.6/10, Yahoo voters are even more enthusiastic at 4.2/5.
  • It was considered an arthouse hit when it grossed $7 million in the USA. Good thing they hired Denzel before his price increased.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Tuna says, "I have to give this one a B-, as even people who would normally avoid this type of film enjoy it." Scoop says, "I originally said this film is a C+, but I believe Tuna has the correct logic when he pegs the score at B-, meaning I liked it although I expected to despise it, and if it sounds appealing to you, you should love it. B- it is."

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