Filmmaking sisters Meneka Das and Sheenu Das debut with a touching, confidently told love story about a bright Indian teenager and her secret love with a rich, white childhood friend. Treading the well-worn path of love that never runs smoothly, director Meneka Das still succeeds in creating a winning movie that rejects Bollywood song and dance in favour of gentle drama.
The Das sisters are names to remember – both star in Little Box of Sweets, with Meneka also on writing and directing duties and Sheenu producing.
Not taking “no” or “big musical numbers, please” for an answer, they called in favours and Sheenu Das sold her house to secure cash for the movie.
Their efforts were worth it – Little Box of Sweets is a modest movie working within its budgetary limitations, realising a good story can be told for any price.
Asha (Meneka Das), a clever servant girl content to hang out with best friend Lalli (Sheenu Das), and care for her grandmother Nanni (Mathur), has her university ambitions and romantic longings rekindled when childhood friend Seth (Anderson) returns to India to study medicine.
But, Asha’s happiness is threatened by Seth's closed-minded stepfather Dev (Vohra), with the reluctant support of his mother Sheila (Michell), and Nanni’s plan to partner Asha with a young banker.
Set in late eighties Allahabad, Little Box of Sweets has a well-judged timeless feel, with Das’ assured direction rejecting empty flash in favour of cinematographer Dusan Todorovic's artful visuals.
The Das sisters share a natural chemistry in front of the camera, and Vohra (who appeared in the similar-feeling Monsoon Wedding) and Mathur lend good support. Anderson is struck with a case of the Orloomdo Blands, but his J17-friendly delicate should win the film a solid cadre of teenage fans.
An enjoyable debut for two disgustingly talented sisters, on the basis of this Meneka and Sheenu Das deserve a long future as that rarest of beasts – a female filmmaking duo.