Chee and T (ENCORE)
Directed by Tanuj Chopra
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“A Coen-esque comedy about a pair of bumbling brown debt collectors, CHEE AND T takes you on a unexpected, often hilarious ride through the darker patches of Silicon Valley.” – Ryan Wu, Features Programming Committee
Festival veteran Tanuj Chopra’s follow-up to last year’s GRASS, CHEE AND T is equal parts buddy comedy, road trip movie, and coming-of-age story as characters search for their place in a world that’s alienated them in different ways. Anchored by strong lead performances and a witty script, the film asks the fundamental question of “how do I fit in?” when one doesn’t meet both societal and familial standards of acceptability.
Set in the bourgeois, suburban tech haven of Palo Alto, CA, Chee (Sunkrish Bala) and T (Dominic Rains) work for Chee’s Uncle Rob (Bernard White), doing debt collecting by shaking down delinquents and ensuring that those who work, rent, or benefit from their uncle, a local “godfather,” stay in line. Fall behind on a payment, get a punch in the gut. When Chee’s cousin, Mayunk (Asif Ali) blows into town and the two men are tasked with babysitting and spit polishing him for his engagement party, the threesome find themselves bumping heads and running into a series of scrapes much to the chagrin of their conservative family and more straight-laced friends. Chopra and co-writer Chee Malabar inject these wayward sons’ comic musings with hilarity and heart. While Chee and T are all calm and cool, the scrappy Mayunk motor mouths his way through life. He becomes the one who loudly (though not so proudly) comes out of his shell as he fights between what’s best for him and the wants of his family.
Navigating these changing perspectives, Chee, T, and Mayunk, three brown brothers who don’t work in tech, reveal to us a vibrant subculture of outsiders in the corporate community of Silicon Valley. Imbued with a droll sensibility set to a pulsating soundtrack, CHEE AND T proves a joyride everybody wants in on. Buzzing off the San Diego Asian Film Festival (where it won Best Narrative Feature), it’s easy to see why this film has garnered the support and attention it has. While definitely a comic crowd pleaser, CHEE AND T possesses genuine moments which richly comment on friendship and familial obligation and especially where those two often intersect.
— Jeremy Gaudette, with additional contributions by Lindy Leong
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Tanuj Chopra’s first feature film, PUNCHING AT THE SUN, a story about South Asian teenagers coming of age in Elmhurst, Queens has premiered at Sundance and Tribeca Film festival. Variety called the fiery debut “a display of talent that’s distinctive, original and iconoclastic.” Other titles he has directed include: CHEE AND T, GRASS, TEACHER IN A BOX, and the webseries, NICE GIRLS CREW. He is currently part of the 2017 Fox Director’s Lab.
Producer: Sohini Sengupta
Director: Tanuj Chopra
Co-Writer: Chee Malabar
Cinematographer: Smokey Nelson
Editor: Karim Lopez
Cast: Sunkrish Bala, Dominic Rains, Asif Ali, Noureen DeWulf, Rebecca Hazlewood, Bernard White, Karan Soni, Himanshu Suri, Scott Rogers