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A naive Indian architecture student in Brooklyn, fearing deportation, teams with a vivacious Jewish classmate to save his uncle’s delicatessen from demolition … and ultimately realises his American Dream.
Aadi Ganguly honors his late parents’ wish and accepts a scholarship to complete his architecture studies in Brooklyn, NY. But there’s a catch – to stay in the US, he requires a stable roof over his head, so must reside with his uncle Rana Santoori, his only family and proprietor of a struggling delicatessen, in a part of the city ripe for gentrification.
Early in the semester, Aadi befriends fellow student Vanessa Ephron (much to the displeasure of the social l climbing Benjamin, who has designs on her.) Life is going well for Aadi – until Uncle Rana reveals that an upstart developer is finalizing a deal to take over the property and evict all the tenants, including their neighbor Roxy (whose ‘jewelry store’ is but a front for a whorehouse).
With India now an alien land to Aadi, and needing to secure accommodation in the US, he boldly proposes transforming the delicatessen into such an outrageous Brooklyn landmark (a la “My Beautiful Laundrette”) that no landlord would consider selling it to a developer for demolition and kick them out into the street. A bold plan. With Vanessa an enthusiastic accomplice. But there’s one minor obstacle. Money!
With limited options, Aadi contemplates dealing a few drugs – much to the chagrin of Vanessa who is now well and truly smitten by him. When challenged for a better solution, Vanessa approaches her not-so-squeaky-clean father David, who agrees to broker a deal through an influential acquaintance.
But when David learns of Aadi’s ethnicity, he reneges on his offer and dissuades Vanessa from seeing the young Indian man again. Desperate times for Aadi. He needs a minor miracle – which comes, ironically, when Aadi discovers David’s indiscretions involving Roxy, the neighboring hooker. With new-found cunning (let’s face it, it’s blackmail), Aadi procures the identity of the prospective savior, the attorney, Preston Ironseid Senior, “a man not to be messed with”.
Undeterred, the once ingenuous Aadi contrives a way into Ironseid’s inner sanctum, and with the exuberance of ambitious young start-ups, he and Vanessa present their pitch – “the marriage proposal of the business world”.
It’s a pitch like no other, piquing the attorney’s memory of his own struggles with discrimination as a young lawyer making his way in Brooklyn in the 1980s. Ironseid commits, and despite attempts to sabotage the project by the upstart developer (his own estranged son, Preston Ironseid Junior!), the deli undergoes its metamorphosis. Aadi’s residential status looks rosy. His emotional status, however, is a different matter.
The intimate relationship that has developed between Aadi and Vanessa turns sour when compromising photographs of Aadi confronting David outside Roxy’s are anonymously forwarded to David’s wife, Gloria. Aadi’s mollifying explanation that perhaps David was negotiating with Roxy on behalf of Mister Ironseid does not sway Vanessa and she rues the day she became involved with Aadi’s ‘kind’. She turns to Benjamin, seeking sympathy and support, only to learn that it was he who took the photos in a petulant attempt to discredit Aadi and remove him from the scene.
Ashamed that, after having chided her father, she has succumbed to her own ethnic prejudices, Vanessa atones her sins by convincing her parents of Aadi’s integrity. As for the heart-broken young man, moping around the deli with the grand opening nigh, it takes a proverbial “kick up the ass” from an unlikely mentor for Aadi to realize what he truly wants in life, and sees him rushing to Vanessa’s house to declare his love.
That done, and with Gloria forgiving David’s ‘indiscretion’, the foursome make an eleventh hour dash to help Uncle Rana celebrate the renaissance of the ‘New Taj Delicatessen’ where, amidst the multi-cultural Bollywood-esque music and dancing, Ironseid pronounces his intention to sponsor Aadi’s future in the US, assuring him that his love affair with Brooklyn – and all that it offers – is about to blossom...