Movie Review: DR. CABBIE (2014 )
Asian Doctors, Engineers and other professionals immigrating to North America and becoming Taxi Drivers is such a common occurrence, that it’s become the butt of jokes and a stereotype. The heartbreak that is behind it however, is something that does warrant a closer look. This is provided very articulately in the most recent India-Canada collaboration of DR. CABBIE.
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A bright-eyed Indian boy graduates from Med School and comes to Canada with his mother with hopes and dreams of helping people and making his late father proud. His dreams are dashed when he realizes that his Indian credentials don’t transfer over to the North American Medical system, so he is relegated to driving a Taxi for a living. Despite this, his inherent good nature, a chance encounter with a pregnant woman and a friend that has no boundaries, end up transforming his Taxi Cab into a mobile doctor’s office, as he drives around, healing people.
It’s very difficult to make a movie about a socially relevant issue, without shoving a ‘message’ down the audience’s throats. Surprisingly, DR. CABBIE is able to do just that, with honest characters, a brisk pace and just enough distractions in the story for the film to not be bogged down with its own ‘message’. Marketed as a straightforward comedy, the film is able to balance the dramatic elements eloquently with the completely laugh out loud moments, which are not as 2 dimensional as the trailers make it seem.
Many of the scenes in the movie may seem embellished, but the film still works as an honest portrayal of the blight that some highly educated immigrants face when coming to North America. Some dialogues do come off as clichéd, but the earnest-ness of lead actor Vinay Virmani and his portrayal of the character of Deepak dismisses all eye rolls and scoffs. Through the use of this remarkable cast, DR. CABBIE is able to humanize the characters, and showcase an issue with a big spotlight, without pandering or exploiting the characters’ misfortune to squeeze sympathy from the audience. The standard comedy comes in ample doses to keep things interesting, and the amazing talent in front of the camera, both new and veteran, engage the audience with nary a dull moment.
While his first film BREAKAWAY saw him as a frustrated Indo-Canadian boy trying to follow his dreams of playing hockey despite family pressures, Virmani’s growth as an actor is very evident in DR. CABBIE. The eagerness with which Virmani brings Deepak to life in the face of crazy characters, desperate situations and heart wrenching moments of defeat, is really that makes the story that much more relatable. Gregory David Robert mentions in his book SHANTARAM about the Indian people that, despite the hardships they face, there is never complaint or bitterness in their attitudes. Deepak embodies this observation, as his idealism and optimism never quell through the course of the story. This is also a personification of the fact that an entire culture of people with ambitions of being the healers of society, are content to settle for being conveyance operators, simply to survive. Writers Manu Chopra, Ron Kennell & Vinay Virmani himself also reflect a similar attitude with the screenplay as the story doesn’t call attention to, or use certain plot points to reinforce their ‘moral’ by beating a dead horse.
Adrienne Palicki as a single mother and love interest to Deepak is refreshingly natural. Veteran Lillete Dubey as the mother trying to navigate North American life while never quite getting the hang of everyday expression is hilarious. And while Vinay Virmani may be the star, given that he’s multitasking by starring in, producing, having written the story, and even Directing the 2nd unit shots… Kunal Nayyar truly steals the show in his feature film debut with his completely mind-blowing departure of his years long character in THE BIG BANG THEORY. Mild mannered Raj is the crude, vulgar and man-whoring Tony who helps get Deepak a job as a Cabbie in the first place.
An ensemble cast performing really well under the Direction of Jean-Francois Pouliot is really what elevates DR. CABBIE from being more than just a comedy based on a stereotypical gimmicky premise. While on the surface it’s a lighthearted rom-com, the material is socially relevant enough to make the audience think twice about a punch line involving an Indian doctor driving a Cab.