Touch of Pink

Touch of Pink, directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid, takes up the familiar theme of a gay man hiding his sexual identity from a parent in another city. The gay man is Alim (played by Jimi Mistry), a Moslem Indian born in Kenya and reared in Canada by a tradition-minded single mother, Nuru (played by Suleka Mathew). Alim is now a dentist in London, living in a flat with his partner Giles (played by Kristen Holden-Ried), a UNICEF economist. When the film begins, Alim and Giles are celebrating an anniversary in a London gay bar, while Nuru is involved in wedding preparations in Toronto for a relative. Nuru at one point cries, knowing that her status within her ethnic community is in jeopardy so long as her son remains unmarried. Accordingly, she flies to London to pressure her son into marrying the nonexistent girlfriend whom he once told her was a brain surgeon. Rather than telling Nuru that they are gay partners, the couple prefers to hide any traces of a gay relationship; indeed, the two stiff, straight actors also hide that fact from filmviewers. When Nuru arrives, she is verbally nasty to her son, hardly a strategy likely to be persuasive. What she learns serves to shatter her inside-the-box thinking about human relationships. First, there is no brain surgeon. Second, Alim tells her that Giles is not just a roommate who is sharing the flat to save money. Third, Nuru learns that Giles’s sister is Alim’s girlfriend, but later is told that she is not. Despite Giles’s successful efforts to make friends with Nuru by showing her about town, the last straw occurs when Alim shows his mother a photograph of Giles in the nude and says that that he took the framed snapshot, which he removed from the wall in the flat before her arrival. She gets the hint, packs her bags, and flies back to Toronto. Upset that Alim has given his own mother such a rough time, Giles also leaves him. Alim then decides to fly to Canada to make amends. The rest of the film ends predictably, as filmviewers will expect that Alim will make up with both his mother and his lover. How he does so is the special contribution of the film. However, an annoying element of the film is the appearance of a Cary Grant (played by Kyle MacLachlan), an alter ego who has a dialog with Alim throughout the film, similar to the ghost in Topper (1937), which in turn had a dialog with Cary Grant. Rather than supplying comedy, the Grant dialog gives the impression that Alim is schizophrenic; on one occasion he says something to his Cary Grant in public, startling a bystander. Alim has evidently been trying to model his life after Cary Grant, who turns out to be a prude and a snob, supplying bad advice. Alim must first learn to think for himself before becoming liberated. That the lesson is that gays should be out rather than closeted, however, is nothing new, as is the portrayal of culture shock by first-generation Third World immigrants in a modern city.  The double entendre phrase “touch of pink,” which presumably is supposed to reference Grant’s role in That Touch of Mink (1962) as well as the existence of a gay man within a tradition-bound family, comes up casually in Toronto during wedding preparations. MH

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