Keeping up with the Kandasamys – A New South African Comedy

The film opens a window into the lifestyle and subculture of modern-day Indian South Africans; their aspirations, dreams, challenges and the things that make them laugh and love

From the producers of Happiness is Four Letter Word, one of South Africa’s most successful films, comes an all new rib-tickling family comedy – Keeping up with the Kandasamys directed by Jayan Moodley (White Gold).keeping-up-with-the-kandasamys-2

“Keeping up with the Kandasamys has something for everyone,” says director Jayan Moodley.

“The universal story of neighbourhood rivalry, our desperate need for acceptance and the climb for perceived societal success, is something which touches everyone the world over. At the end of the day we can all recognize our quirks and foibles and the funny side of the weird, wonderful and strangely competitive world we live in.”

“I loved making this film in Chatsworth. It’s an iconic place, like District Six or Soweto. It’s vibrant, lively and spirited, and I believe we have managed to not only capture its idiosyncrasies but also its heart and soul, that will make global audiences fall in love with it too, over a barrel full of laughs.”

Produced by Junaid Ahmed and Helena Spring with screenplay by Jayan Moodley and Rory Booth, Keeping up with the Kandasamys, promises audiences some truly funny laughs about families, relationships and “neighbourhood-envy”.

Set in Chatsworth, it stars Jailoshni Naidoo and Maeshni Naicker as the matriarchal rivals of neighbouring families, whose young adult children become romantically involved despite their best efforts to keep them apart, with hilarious results, they are forced to acknowledge that in the end “love will always prevail.”

Shanti Naidoo (played by Maeshni Naicker) is a typical Type-A personality. Always on the move, going out of her way to please people, and overcompensating for her own perceived inadequacies by constantly cooking up a storm in her kitchen. Her life would be just fine, except that her neighbour Jennifer Kandasamy (Jailoshni Naidoo), always seems to have the upper hand.

When Jennifer realizes her daughter Jodi (Mishqah Parthiephal) is in love with Shanti’s son Prinesh (Madhushan Singh), she is determined to break them up. But in order to do that she will have to enlist her rival’s help. Together the two women scheme and plot, recruit prospective partners and generally interfere with their kids wherever they can.  Sound familiar? Just how far will one go to serve one’s own selfish needs? And will they learn that in the end, it really is just happiness that matters.

Director’s Statement

Jayan started her career as an educator with a National Higher Diploma in Education. She completed her BSc degree majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science thereafter.

However, she soon realized that her passion lay in the creative arts and embarked on this new journey in 2005. She has been involved in various projects for the SABC. Her particular interests lies within spirituality and the multi-faith concept. Some of the documentaries she has produced include The Shembes Walk to God, Buddhism – Finding the Peace Within and Ela Gandhi – the Hands that Serve. Her dream came true when she produced, co- directed and wrote the screenplay for the movie White Gold. Jayan takes a keen interest in youth development programmes.  She is currently the producer of the Hindu magazine programme on SABC 3  Sadhana which is into its fifth season.

Kandasamys#2_ASSixty years since the creation of apartheid’s dormitory township of Chatsworth, Keeping up with the Kandasamys is a legacy project that celebrates a unique, vibrant and colourful community in a democratic South Africa.

It is a film not just about space and identity and about place and people, but an in-depth exploration of the largely universal theme of family, love and happiness. It examines also the nature and fragility of complex human relationships, the importance of forgiveness, and ultimately about subduing personal pride for the realisation of our children’s happiness.

Entering the insular world of the two main characters who remain trapped within their contempt of each other, the audience is able to gently uncover their superficial layers to reveal a deep emotional scar that prevents them moving forward.  One an over-compensating mother and wife, and the other an untrusting and aloof professional, both neighbours build a metaphorical wall between their families.

Through the life journey of the two protagonists, the film is a subtle commentary on how personal pride can transform a somewhat peaceful existence into complete turmoil. It speaks to the age-old bane of overbearing and imposing parents, which takes on a new meaning in the insulated and close-knit Indian South African community. Without preachy undertones, it suggests the need for parents to give their children the space to make their own life decisions. Whilst exploring these key themes, it is always light and funny, and using the quirkiness of key characters, and comedic relief at important turning points to always guarantee entertainment value.

In the final analysis, Keeping up with the Kandasamys is a celebration of people, of love and unity, and of the importance of realising that in the end, only happiness matters.

Dr Alwyn Didar Singh, Secretary in the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, confirmed that Durban, KZN has the highest concentration of Indians compared to any other city state overseas[1]. This is an important and yet often underestimated fact, emphasising the unique geopolitical space that KZN holds globally.  The apartheid-created dormitory township of Chatsworth that was designated for South Africans of Indian origin has over the last six decades managed to preserve its unique character.

Keeping up with the Kandasamys is an attempt to provide local and international audiences with a glimpse into the lifestyle and subculture of modern-day Indian South Africans; their aspirations, dreams, and challenges. Like viewers get drawn into the inimitable characteristics of a Harlem or Bronx in New York, so too will Keeping Up transport them into the vibrant and colourful suburb, allowing them a first-hand authentic experience of the local nuances of Indian South African culture.

Whilst the setting for the film is indeed unique, its theme most certainly has universal appeal. Essentially it explores how a deep-seated rivalry between neighbours, Shanti and Jennifer, interferes with the happiness of their children who are madly in love with each other. The story comes alive as the two women scheme and plot, recruit prospective partners and generally create more and more obstacles to prevent their children from continuing a romantic relationship.

Light-hearted, and entertaining, the story is supported by an array of colourful characters that celebrate the rich way of life in Chatsworth, Durban through rib-tickling comedy. There is Jodi, Jennifer’s beautiful daughter, her friend Marlin, the local wedding planner – an epitome of fabulous flamboyancy, the sensitive medical student Pranesh, son of the crowd pleaser Shanti and the two husbands Preggie and Elvis, who always remain in the background, constantly over-shadowed by their dominating wives. Ayah, Jennifer’s elderly (and sickly) mother in law, represents that typical granny in most Chatsworth extended families, with one-liners and funny incites and eventually deep insights that are bound to strike a chord with any audience.

From a directorial point of view, Keeping up with the Kandasamys has been carefully scripted not only to entertain but to remind viewers of the important value of family in modern life. It aims to bring characters to life and to take movie-making in KZN to yet another level. It comes at a time, when the film industry in this Province has finally turned the corner, and will be a catalyst for economic development, whilst ensuring that local KZN talent remains in this beautiful Kingdom of the Zulu.