Set against the backdrop of the 1970s, Lena Khan’s Tiger Hunter is an endearing and charming look at the American dream through the eyes of a young Indian immigrant hoping to live up to his father’s reputation by achieving greatness in the land of opportunity. (EML: 4/5)
Review by FF2 Associate Eliana M. Levenson
“Sami Malik” (Danny Pudi) grew up in awe of his father, the great tiger hunter of his Indian neighborhood. Though his father died when he was young, Sami always felt the shadow of his father’s greatness over him. Driven to achieve because of his father’s legacy, Sami became an engineer however, opportunities for greatness in India as an engineer at the time are pretty much nonexistent so Sami sets his sights on America.
After applying to many companies, Sami finally hears back from a company looking to hire him as an engineer. The entire town rallies to fund Sami’s trip to America, including the girl Sami has been in love with since he was a child, “Ruby” (Karen David.) Ruby is the daughter of a powerful general who expects only the best for his daughter’s spouse. While Ruby and Sami seem to have a romantic spark, Sami knows that he must achieve greatness to earn the chance to marry Ruby.
Upon arrival in the United States, Sami learns that the job he’d come out for is no longer available but is offered a temporary low level position. Sami, optimistic, walks out of the office certain he will find employment as an engineer easily. However, almost immediately, Sami is mugged and, with no money and no belongings, he starts to lose hope.
Enter “Babu” (Rizwan Manji) a friendly Pakistani immigrant full of exuberant positive energy and a generous spirit. Babu offers Sami space in his home, which is shared with around a dozen other immigrants. It is then that Sami learns that, despite all of the men in the apartment having advanced engineering degrees, each works in a menial labor position.
Still, Sami refuses to be deterred, and takes the low level position at the company in the hopes that he will quickly advance to a permanent engineering position. He befriends a co-worker “Alex” (Jon Heder) who gives Sami a crash course in being American. Sami begins working on his plan to advance his position within the company. However, when Ruby and her father plan to come to America to meet with prospective husbands, Sami’s forced to speed up his plan in order to ensure he presents himself as worthy to Ruby, and more importantly, Ruby’s father.
Lena Khan’s Tiger Hunter has the perfect blend of sadness and hope, painting a picture of the American immigrant experience that’s full of bittersweet charm. Sami’s persistent optimism to improve his station coupled with Babu’s unbridled enthusiasm for the American lifestyle drives the otherwise simple plot. Khan’s quick-witted and colorful dialogue keeps the pacing of the film flowing and prevents the audience from feeling bogged down by the predictability of the story.
Supported by a stellar seventies soundtrack, Tiger Hunter is full of dynamic characters who breathe life into the world. In the leading role, Danny Pudi delivers a stunning performance however, it is Rizwan Manji in the supporting role of Babu who truly steals the show, keeping the audience laughing but with an undercurrent of the harsh realities that face immigrants coming to America. Overall, Tiger Hunter is a poignant and powerful story of coming to America wrapped masterfully by Khan in a colorful package full of optimism and hope.
Top Photo: A poster for Lena Khan’s Tiger Hunter.
Middle Photo: “Sami Malik” (Danny Pudi) and “Ruby” (Karen David) look up at a projection of the Indian night sky as Sami attempts to woo Ruby on her trip to visit him in America.
Bottom Photo: Sami sleeps in the communal bed shared by all of his roommates in Babu’s apartment full of immigrants.
Photo Credits: Katrina Marcinowski
Q: Does Tiger Hunter pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
Sadly it does not.
While an enchanting film, the story is primarily male focused with the main female character serving purely as a love interest and motivation for the protagonist.