The hedonist possibilities of New York City remain unexplored in Walkaway, whose privileged heterosexual twentysomethings would rather spend their time looking for the perfect partner to take home to Momma. It’s a good thing at least one in this circle of friends, mostly Indian émigrés, gets fired in the course of the film: Inheriting this kind of over-investment in getting married can be a full-time job, which apparently largely consists of convincing your date to get your horoscopes matched and feigning dissatisfaction at being treated like a perennial child.
At least some of the characters know that all fairy tales end at the wedding day, mostly the married ones. But the dynamics of kinship and power are too imbricated in the rite for one to risk the queerness of finding other models of intimacy. There’s so much at stake the drama is what either makes or breaks the wedding. Of course, the apparent goodwill of relatives disguises all sorts of nasty agendas in any kind of culture. But it’s all exacerbated here in the lack of passive-aggressiveness Indian relatives seem to be capable of, as they engage in their surveillance job to keep the reproduction of tradition from straying. The figure of the Indian mother gains particularly monstrous status. They are portrayed as ruthlessly selfish matriarchs incapable of negotiating their children’s autonomy and extremely invested in the rather curious, if not incestuous, practice of setting up one’s kids with possible partners.
Walkaway tries really hard to use ethnicity as a way to give a singular edge to a rather stale cinematic formula. The kind that depends on canned music to convey emotion and saturates the storyline with silly time-lapse montages, to the sound of “Jai Ho”-like beats, in order to spring the plot forward. In a sense, director and writer Shailja Gupta, in her attempts to create an “Indian” version of the completely sappy and overdone romantic-dramedy-with-an-ensemble-cast-of-urban-singles, echoes her own characters’ paradoxes. While negotiating the demands of American life with the demands of traditional Indian culture, these cosmopolitan youths rehearse a rebelling to previous models of conduct, but ultimately surrender to reproducing the exact same structures, dynamics and ideologies from previous generations. Provided their horoscopes match.