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Rhythm Boyz

MOVIE REVIEW
Chal Mera Putt 2 (2021)

The gang’s all back in “Chal Mera Putt 2,” the sequel to the Punjabi diaspora blockbuster about a ragtag of undocumented immigrants living together in Birmingham, Britain. To uninitiated gringos, think “Limbo” reimagined as a rowdy comedy. Though the sequel attempts to replicate the original’s success formula, it seems far less concerned with immigrants toiling away at dead-end jobs or evading threats of deportation and more with their romantic prospects. For them, family affairs such as matchmaking, celebrating Diwali and funeral processions all must be conducted over FaceTime.

Tabrez (Nasir Chinyoti) has a marriage prospect arranged by his father (Agha Majid), so the rest of the crew decide to play a practical joke to get Tabrez to think there’s a Birmingham woman interested in him – and dangle this carrot to trick him into splurging on food and housing for their own enjoyment. Meanwhile, Jinder (Amrinder Gill), who makes a habit of hitting up girlfriend Savy (Simi Chahal) for handouts, is getting competition — Savy’s aunt is fixing her up with her brother-in-law, Deepa (Garry Sandhu). With a path to citizenship announced in the news, they also look into acquiring a loopy attorney Bilal (Zafri Khan) to help them petition for permanent residency. And of course, they are still trying to find a place to crash.

The new film employs five Pakistani actors (Mr. Chinyoti, Mr. Khan, Iftikhar Thakur, Ruby Anam and Akram Udas) after the All Indian Cine Workers Association implemented their ban in 2019. It’s a significant breakthrough, but one that also makes a lot of sense. Immigrants naturally band together, especially if they have ethnic or language commonalities, and sometimes in spite of their political and cultural differences. It’s a beautiful sight to behold, whether on film or in real life.

The sequel does feel rather lightweight compared with its predecessor and “Limbo.” Its subplots on immigrant life, work and legal troubles strike as afterthoughts. Their attempt to exploit a contractor job is amusing, just as is the attorney’s taking advantage of them, and there’s definitely a kernel of truth to some immigrant professionals shortchanging their own because of blind trust and language barriers preventing their customers and clients from seeking a better deal. Their treatment of their landlord, Saira (Ms. Anam), as a mother figure so she’ll be more flexible on rent is also an apt manifestation of the surrogate families formed in diasporas. Too bad the film emphasizes more the humorous aspects rather than the heart-warming community building and finding family in a foreign land. Before the end titles roll, there’s already a trailer for “Chal Mera Putt 3.” Now that it’s a proper franchise, the next one will probably stray even farther away from the humanity that is its charm.

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