Written, directed, and produced by Danish Renzu, The Illegal starring Suraj Sharma is an underwhelming take on the other side of the Great American Dream. With the writing simply brushing up on immigrant struggles’ template structure, The Illegal becomes mere documentation rather than a heartfelt story with depth. One has to be so naively ignorant about the whole process to feel for this movie’s characters.
Hassan is an aspiring filmmaker who comes to LA to join a film school. His initial plan was to stay with his uncle. But that didn’t work out the way he intended. Eventually, his housing requirement was fulfilled when he was given a small job in a Desi restaurant. How Hassan managed his studies and the job during that period and what all struggles he had to go through are what you see in The Illegal.
Danish Renzu wants to show the never-ending vicious cycle of several immigrants coming to America and ending up living a sacrificed life. But his tools are limited or extremely familiar. You have this poor Indian middle-class hero who wants to pursue the expensive filmmaking course in LA. And when he arrives in LA, his uncle suggests he should go for engineering rather than filmmaking. It felt more like a clumsy satire on Indian obsession about living a mundane life in the initial bits. But then the film steps into this struggling phase of Hassan where we see him struggling to handle the workplace tensions and the demands of his filming course.
Danish Renzu’s making would remind you of Hassan because Hassan has good technical know-how about filmmaking and cinematography. Just like that, in terms of framing and the kind of colors you see in visuals, there is a sense of craft in the movie. But when it comes to the writing part, both Hassan and Renzu find it hard to give layers to their plot points. The rough dynamics between characters, the selfless sacrifices, the deaths, the girlfriend who can’t understand the hero, etc., felt like ideas that never really got a blended treatment.
Suraj Sharma fits into the character of Hassan very effectively. It’s a very vulnerable character who, at times, loses his temper and also has that cool sense of humor. Suraj performs all those emotions very impressively and plays a crucial role in making the movie watchable. Iqbal Theba is the empathetic Babaji. Shweta Tripathi and Adil Hussain are fine in their small parts. Jay Ali as Khan is a bit too eccentric.
The Illegal is like Varthamanam for those who don’t know what’s happening in current India. It’s mere documentation of the immigrants’ Great American Dream with all the filmy elements we have seen in perhaps Indian movies. The movie is only 80 minutes long. So you won’t have the complaint that they stretched this guessable plot far too long.
It's mere documentation of the immigrants' Great American Dream with all the filmy elements we have seen in perhaps Indian movies.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended