Movie Review: Hank and Asha (2013)
by Alan F. Zundel
“Hank and Asha” is a pleasant little low-budget romance that leans too much on a gimmick. But before I tell you about that, let me tell you what I liked about it.
The two leads, who have to carry the weight of every single scene, are likeable and engaging. Andrew Pastides plays Hank, an aspiring filmmaker living in a cramped apartment in New York City. Mahira Kakkar plays Asha, a young woman from India studying in Prague. Their characters are nice people that you’d like things to work out for.
Asha sees one of Hank’s experimental films and sends him an online video letter asking some questions about it. She’s cute in a down to earth way, intelligent, articulate, and a bit shy. Hank is flattered at her interest and sends back a video letter answering her questions and asking about her life. He’s friendly, personable, and also nice looking in an ordinary guy way.
They begin an ongoing video correspondence, learning about each other and showing one another points of interest in their respective neighborhoods, almost like dating. Friendliness proceeds to flirting, and flirting to unexpected complications. There’s gotta be complications, right?
So I liked the characters and the actors make the romance plausible. Like I said at the outset, it’s a pleasant little movie.
The problem is the gimmick of a romance carried on solely via online videos. I know an independent film needs some kind of angle to generate attention, and I admit that the concept was part of what sold my wife and I on it when we wanted to pick out a romantic movie to watch. (Fittingly, we watched it online.)
But the concept began to wear thin after a while. To make the romance believable, at some point the leads need to interact on screen together. It’s hard to generate chemistry when your scenes are all done separately. The video thing works as a flirtation, but it was less plausible when Hank gets serious about the relationship. It becomes, against the filmmakers’ intentions, almost creepy.
A more interesting angle was the cross-cultural one. Asha comes from a traditional Indian family, which is what generates the obligatory romantic roadblock midway through the film. I found this intriguing, and wanted to see how they would get around it. The movie tries to generate suspense with their grappling over this, but the characters’ inner lives and larger social connections are not fleshed out enough to provide the necessary dramatic oomph.
An attempt is made to give Hank some psychological complexity via him talking about his parental issues, but this was irrelevant to Asha’s concerns. I wanted to know more about what she was dealing with, and less with what he was. The film seemed to lose focus here, as though the writers didn’t really understand Asha as a character and tried to compensate by giving Hank some other problems to deal with.
Overall, though, it was enjoyable to watch. I have a soft spot for low-budget movies, and especially enjoy seeing people doing a professional job on a micro-low budget like this. I made a couple of amateur films when I was younger, and films like this feed my fantasy that one day I will take camera in hand and try another one. If I could do as well as this, I would be gratified.
“Hank and Asha” was produced by James E. Duff and Julia Morrison, who shot it on their honeymoon. The couple also co-wrote it, with Duff directing and Morrison editing. The feeling that it was a labor of love comes across on the screen, which is a big plus helping to overcome the deficiencies of the plot. The story of how they put it all together is a testament to their ingenuity and dedication.
Much like with Hank and Asha, you want this couple to succeed. I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.