This is a story about the aspirations, challenges, and issues that go along with choosing to live abroad as working-class immigrants residing in the Jackson Heights area, the borough of Queens in New York City. The one thing they all have in common is the hope and drive to live the American dream.
The Main Characters
*Michele (Marina Khan) is a successful female entrepreneur. She owns and runs an Indian Cuisine Diner in the heart of Jackson Heights where the immigrant cabbies hangout for their meals and get together. Once upon a time, she was married to a Pakistani man for several years when unfortunately the marriage failed and since then she’s moved on with her life to become the independent and successful woman we now see who decided a while back to live life on her own terms. She’s been blessed to have met and become close and good friends with a man named Rizwan (Adnan Jaffar) over the years.
*Rizwan (Adnan Jaffar) is a charming, sophisticated and debonair man. Whose a successful Indian Muslim banker. He tried bringing his friends-only relationship with Michele to the next level but failed because Michele only wanted the friendship and nothing more.
*Imran Bhatti (Norman Ejaz) is one of those hard-working cab drivers that hangout at Michelle’s diner. He’s solid to the core, a much older man with a heart of gold who keeps the family going back home in Pakistan. He gets along very well with fellow cabbie drivers as they admire and look up to him because they know he is trustworthy and always willing to lend a hand when needed. But unfortunately for him, he’s trapped in a bitter marriage with an American woman named Kathy who has not a sliver of respect for him.
So she along with her two teens/young adult children, Izzi and Mark make life much more difficult for him with their obnoxious, insensitive, mean spirited and disagreeable personalities. It is especially more evident as you see his interactions with Kathy and Izzi. He seems to get along a little better with Mark at times.
It’s obvious that one of the reasons he married Kathy was to gain citizenship in America but it seems he sold his soul to her because each day spent with her is like a thousand years of punishment and torture for because this woman does not let up, she continues on a daily basis to make his life one of misery and has no desire to love him in the right way nor value and respect him.
*Imran befriends Salma (Aamina Sheikh) who works at a beauty salon with another woman and she’s been the single parent to a teenage stepdaughter for the past two years since her husband Sikander (Ali Kazmi) has been away serving a two-year jail sentence. She’s been sharing her residence with an oppressive and bickering mother in law from Pakistan who does not agree with Salma’s decisions when it comes to her granddaughter living an American lifestyle. She wants them to live as if they still resided in Pakistan.
*Sikander (Ali Kazmi) is back in her life as he showed up on her doorstep once again after serving a two-year jail sentence, as he makes claims to have changed but little by little he reveals that he is still the overbearing, abusive person who is always mixed up in illegal dealings.
*Finally you have Jamshed (Adeel Hussain) who is Imran’s nephew who arrived freshly from Pakistan. He’s a young twenty-year-old upstart who’s a little bit naive as he has big dreams about the possibility of making it big in America. He was trying to escape the abusive difficult relationship with his aunt and uncle back in Pakistan. But once his feet hit the American soil it has been nothing but trouble and problems for him ever since.
At one point the harsh reality of living in the city became way too much for him as he shed tears when things did not work out job-wise when he met with an old friend and then with him being thrown out of the house by Kathy. He was thrown out because Izzie lied and accused him of smoking when she was the one smoking. So for Kathy, this was the only excuse she needed to toss him out of the house. She never wanted Imran’s family member in her house period.
It was really tough to watch as his girlfriend Aasma back in Pakistan had decided to get married to his best friend Nadir behind his back. I say Aasma never really loved him because she knew Jamshed was only going to be away for a six month period and well she refused to wait that long for him. What a betrayal! I’d say Jamshed is better off without her and at least he found out what kind of person this girl really was before he married her. Then he found out the truth that his uncle Imran does not own a cab company and has been miserable being stuck in a marriage to a horrible selfish woman for the fifteen years he’s been here, all to gain citizenship to remain in this country.
So as they say like father like son, well like Mamoon (Imran), like Bhanja (Jamshed), now Jamshed’s planning to copy cat Imran! And I am sure he is thinking why not, because he has to do what he has to do to remain and survive in this country too. So now he is trying to romance the hard-nosed Michele and he’s pulling out all the stops! Sucking up big time. Poor Michele! She is liking all the attention she’s been getting from Jamshed so far, but she won’t know that all his attention is coming with a price tag. Citizenship! I sure hope Michele won’t allow her nose to be too widely opened (LOL!) before it’s too late. Well, we will see what happens. I think she’s no dummy and will see right through Jamshed’s intentions. It would be a shame to see her get her feelings hurt, she already has her guard up to all Pakistani men as it is after having gone through with a bad marriage. So finding out Jamshed is only trying to use her will hurt her a lot I think.
The best part of the movie for me so far has been about Imran and Salma’s friendship as it is beginning to grow and blossom due to the fact that they both are unhappy and similar circumstances.
I am also so touched by the close relationship both Imran and Jamshed have with Ammi in Pakistan. I was so touched by Jamshed as he tried to call back home to speak with his grandmother Ammi while hurting, upset and having a bad day. As he was feeling like his world came crashing down upon him. Ammi’s been the one person in his life who genuinely displays affection and cares for him no matter what, as she represents a place of comfort and safety since the time he lost both parents very early in life. Ammi’s the reason why both Mamoon and Bhanja are able to find the strength to make it another day while abroad in tough situations believe it or not.
So I must say that I adore that this story is being filmed in the heart of a busy bustling Jackson Heights. I find myself looking to see where they are filming with each episode hoping to see parts of Jackson Heights I may have been before. I love seeing the streets, shops, and restaurants as I used to go there often.
But of all the characters of the show, I am in love with Imran Bhatti who is such a sweetheart, a tender loving and caring man.
Actually, I felt so bad for him when Kathy threw out a bunch of his clothes/belongings and a sweater his mother Ammi sent him without speaking with him first even though Kathy claims he never wore the things and sweater. But have you ever heard the expression “it’s not what you do it’s the way you do it” well she fails to realize that it’s not just a sweater, it’s what the sweater represents? It’s a symbol and reminder of home. Kathy seems to have no real connection with him nor does she have any idea of what family means to him. Sadly she’s another one of those who give Americans living in a city a bad rap.
I love that this story seems so believable as the actors and actresses do one amazing job. They bring this story to life. I am reminded of “Law And Order” and “New York Undercover” which were such amazing shows that were filmed in the streets of New York as well. So later yall!