Pricey Jassi arrives with echoes of Madonna’s 1989 hit “Dear Jessie” and its sugary promise of pink elephants and lemonade, however none of that seems to be forthcoming in Tarsem Singh Dhandwar’s stunning and brutal sixth function. As an alternative, we now have maybe probably the most disturbing bait-and-switch since George Sluizer’s authentic iteration of The Vanishing, a Punjabi Juliet-meets-Romeo story that’s a lot harsher that any so-far-filmed model of West Aspect Story and a complete lot funnier. This dissonance takes some time to disclose itself, however when it does, the shock is visceral. The truth that nearly all the things is true is the killer blow, and the shockwave of that reverberates by way of the poignant last credit, a static shot that forces the viewers, or perhaps simply merely dares them, to consider what they’ve simply seen.

Immigrant tales have been huge in 2023, however the troubling core of Pricey Jassi is definitely an emigrant story, one which instantly offers with the lesser-publicized socio-economic draw back of migration. This isn’t some highfalutin tutorial train however a refreshing reflection of a few of the realities, like the way in which folks can go away their homelands after which, when safely in pastures greener, begin to look down on the world they left behind. Lensed by common collaborator Brendan Galvin, Pricey Jassi is that uncommon culture-clash movie that emphasizes similarities moderately than the variations, to the extent that the presence of a cow is one of the simplest ways to examine you’re undoubtedly in India.

The start is weirdly low-key for Singh, who made a splash along with his 2000 debut The Cell, a serial-killer film starring Jennifer Lopez as a shrink who can enter coma sufferers’ minds that — are you able to imagine it? — was accused of being a bit far-fetched. In an nameless area, a singer-slash-musician makes use of the phrases of 18th-century Sufi poet Bulleh Shah to set the scene. “They say love makes people crazy,” he says, earlier than the digicam unexpectedly swipes proper to a seemingly innocuous farm constructing. Love does, in fact, do that, however the folks made loopy on this story will not be the lovers however these round them, and what occurs over the subsequent two hours is each a refined and efficient elaboration on Shakespeare’s story of two households and one thing that can later lead us again to that farm constructing and reveal it in a macabre new gentle.

On this case, the 2 households span two continents. Someday within the mid-90s, Canadian Indian lady Jassi (Pavia Sidhu) is visiting her cousin Charni in rural India when she lays eyes on Mithu (Yugam Sood), a village boy who excels at kabaddi, a rowdy native contact sport. For causes which might be by no means fairly clear, Jassi turns into obsessive about Mithu, an obsession that raises purple flags from the start. Equally unclear is the chronology; initially, Singh performs backward and forward with time, exhibiting Jassi at her residence in Canada, the place the police have been referred to as to escort her from the household residence. Tensions are working excessive. A lady’s voice shouts, “Bitch, you’re dead!”

How did we get right here? Singh’s movie fills in that backstory with heat and humor as Jassi and Mithu pursue a really chaste courtship; Jassi goes residence and does all the things she will to get Mithu over to Canada. Mithu, in fact, has no clue find out how to get there. He has no passport, and even when he will get one, his try and ebook a flight is thwarted when a rip-off journey agent steals his charge (at any time when we’re in India, allusions to corruption and bribery are by no means distant). Nonetheless, Jassi persists, a lot to the dismay of her snobbish ex-pat mom, whose husband is gravely sick and whose dedication to carry on to her sense of household, class and repute seems to be method scarier than any of the — largely offscreen — bodily violence, most of which ensues when Jassi demonstrates her love for Mithu (“If I’d known you were going to do this,” says her mom later, “I would have killed you at birth”).

It’s a daring melange, and if this movie had emerged within the ’70s, likelihood is that Pricey Jassi would have test-screened a few times after which been hurriedly edited right down to a bizarre 80 minutes primarily based on the jokey stuff, like Italian director Fernando Di Leo’s controversial 1978 curio To Be Twenty. Fortunately, that’s unlikely to occur right here, particularly with a director who likes to take literal possession of his movies. However though the likes of Michael Haneke and Gaspar Noé have carried out a few of the legwork on this space, Singh’s movie continues to be difficult, because it comes with a lightness that’s not a lot recognized within the cinema of transgression – there are many laughs till, with nigh on 45 minutes nonetheless to go, the movie radically adjustments gear after which, most annoying of all, doubles again on itself with a significantly upsetting reveal.

Admirers of Singh’s 2006 delirious cult basic The Fall is perhaps, not less than initially, thrown by the relative ordinariness of Pricey Jassi (and, in comparison with The Fall, nearly something appears peculiar). However like that movie, Pricey Jassi is engaged on a meta stage, subverting a basic storyline — in that case, it was a hero’s journey; on this case, it’s two illicit lovers’ flight — to create a strong and provocative movie about household, delight and tribalism. Chances are you’ll yawn and level out that Shakespeare stated just about all that within the sixteenth century, however the truth that the occasions referenced right here occurred lower than 30 years in the past is a sobering reminder of how Romeo and Juliet‘s mindless lack of lives has been fetishized right into a romantic trope, and {that a} so-called “tragic” love affair comes with a lot extra collateral harm than we might ever know.