Nina’s Heavenly Delights

The bad news – for me – was that Art Malik has  only a supporting role in this film, so he’s not  on screen enough.   (And it’s already been established that he does not don a kilt.)   Then again, the title is Nina’s Heavenly Delights, not Raj’s.

The good news for all of us is Nina’s Heavenly Delights gives us  a chance to see a cross-section of the Indian  diaspora (Scots desi !) not portrayed onscreen before, as far as I know.   In fact, the only desi in the UK with any Scottish roots that I’ve encountered before is  Raj Dhanda on the BBC Asian Network’s Film Cafe.

This first full-length feature – or, self-proclaimed urban fairytale – directed and produced by Pratibha Parmar is set in Glasgow and shows Nina Shah (Shelley Conn), the rebel child in the family, returning late for her father’s funeral.   It’s her first time back in three years, after she bolted and left her groom-to-be at the altar.   Her father was the owner and chef of The New Taj restaurant, which he left deep in  debt and is now about to be sold.  

Nina learned to cook at her  father’s knee, and twice in the past they  won the Best in the West  curry  competition.  

Before allowing her family (mother, brother, and sister) to throw in the towel, she convinces them to hold off selling the restaurant until she can compete in  the upcoming Best in the West competition one more time, and try for the  hat trick  her late Dad always dreamed of winning.  

As the story progresses towards the final cook-off (televised on the local Korma TV channel and hosted by a lively British Asian man in a kilt), there is much cooking, eating and talk of love and following your heart in between.  

Nina and Bobby

Bobby and his bevvy of hunky Scots and Asian dancers prepare to try-out for the casting of the film Love in a Wet Climate, hurtling around town in his fabulously, colorfully illustrated van.   Nina realizes awakening feelings toward Lisa, who seems permanently joined at the hip to her brother, and who Nina  assumes is involved with him.

Lisa and Nina

Concerned about causing her family any more grief, after having already abandoned  a groom, Nina tries to tamp down any stirrings she has, and bumping into the object of her affections while cooking makes that more and more difficult.   In fact, every Shah has secrets they’re keeping in order to spare family members’ feelings.  

(Oh, and did I mention Nina’s teenage sister who loves highland dancing?)

Shelley Conn is delicious as  Nina and has a glow about her that suits the sensuality of the film well.   Ronny Jhutti’s Bobbi is such an engaging  character on screen (as well as smart, sassy and  supportive), that I would love to see a movie  centred around him and his story.   Same too for the understated Veena Sood as Nina’s mother.   If there were a good vehicle for a story centred around a woman in her 40s, she would hold my interest for 90 minutes or more.   As written for Parmar’s film, she is a nuanced woman who steers clear of the Sexy Aunty and Rhona Dhona, Hai-Hai-What-Did-I-Do-in-My-Past-Life Maa roles that woman are often squeezed into in  other movies.


Even way up in grey and damp Glasgow, Bollywood’s emphasis is  felt.   Nina’s mother watches Mughal-e-Azam as the very fitting “Pyar Kiya to Darna Kiya” plays, Bobbi frolics to “Ina Mina Dika” in his video shop before an equally rapt audience of desi and non-desi toddlers, and there’s a big musical finale set to “Aap jaisa koi”.

See it or skip it?

See it.   This is a perfect date movie, but be sure to have a favorite Indian restaurant in mind for dinner afterward, for, just as with Moonstruck, you’ll exit the theater  ravenous for a meal like you’ve just seen prepared onscreen.

It’s sweet to see a film potray familial and community (Asian or otherwise) reaction to gay characters and interracial relationships so lovingly.    

This film was screened Friday, November 3rd 2006 at the Indo-American Arts Council’s sixth film festival.

12 thoughts on “Nina’s Heavenly Delights

  1. I stumbled across this move on Anytime TV on Sky TV. Being an Indian that has recently decided to get more in touch with my family’s origin, this movie was a good jump start.

    I did find the script a bit too simplistic and sometimes unbelievable. I however, did enjoy the portrayal of the now-deceased father and his undying words. I also enjoyed the way that Indian food was depicted. I even wish they had gone deeper with this dynamic. Indian food is so easily misunderstood and highly undervalued. This dynamic exposed the more scientific side of Sub-Continental Cuisine.

    The Mother in the movie was greatly portrayed. Although the twist in the end with her character was a bit obtuse. I also wish the sister that enjoys highland dancing did a better job. Even in the closing scenes she was not up to par with her dance partners, and this made her passion hard to believe.

  2. How refreshing to FINALLY see storyline of Asian culture thats about something other than arranged marriages and overbearing finger-wagging aunties. The music and food were additional characters to a fantastic group of strong Asian actors. The actress playing Suman was a standout for me – as you say, nuanced, with a lovely arc. Where did Parmar find such a good looking cast?? If you liked this you’ll love Ae Fond Kiss, as well as the Canadian release Touch of Pink (starring Jimi Mistry).
    My only criticism? The editing seems a bit off. Wayy too many closeups that robbed us of the comedy, and made alot of the film feel too precious.

  3. Oh Gosh….this movie is one of the worst films I have seen in the last year. I cannot believe you rated it. I usually agree with your verdicts.

  4. Actually, desi is a North Indian term and not used by South Indians. A few ABDs have appropriated it (even I use it on my blog) but remains a North Indian term largely absent from South India and Sri Lanka.

  5. Thanks, Hiren!

    Bollyaddict, my understanding is that generally “desi” is used for just about anyone and everyone from South Asia, though typically is gets applied to, and used by, Indian people the most. Thanks for the tip on the Ken Loach film; I will look it up.

  6. Hi Filmiholic, sounds very interesting – let’s hope it might come to the Berlin Film Festival next February, because otherwise there probably won’t be a chance to watch it. It somehow reminded me of another film with a desi family in Glasgow (I’m not sure: do Pakistanis count as Desis as well?). In case you missed it – it’s a wonderful, wonderful film by Ken Loach, called “Ae Fond Kiss”, and it’s also about interracial relationships and interreligious relationships (the Irish woman in the film, who is (not actively) catholic, also gets quite a lot of problems because of her relationship to a Muslim). It ends on a slightly optimistic note, quite unlike most of Ken Loach’s other films: highly recommended!

  7. Well, my name is Hiren Shah and nice to see shahs in a “rebel” avtaar even if in reel life. Very nice pictures and quite an interesting blog. Keep it up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *