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Immigration supposed to provide optimism, not division: Anjul Nigam

Nigam is the writer and producer of the feel-good, coming-of-age movie 'Growing Up Smith' that chronicles the life of the boy from India growing up in America in 1979

By: PTI | New York |
February 4, 2017 10:24:18 pm
FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2017 file photo, Muslim women shout slogans during a rally against President Donald Trump's order cracking down on immigrants living in the U.S. at Washington Square Park in New York. Many citizens of Muslim-majority countries affected by President Donald Trump’s curbs on travel to the United States say they were hardly surprised the restrictions rank among his first orders of business.  (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki) Muslim women shout slogans during a rally against President Donald Trump’s order cracking down on immigrants living in the U.S. at Washington Square Park in New York. (Source: AP Photo/Andres Kudacki, file)

Amid a divisive and anti-immigrant rhetoric in the US, Indian-American actor and writer Anjul Nigam expects his movie about a 10-year-old boy from India growing up in a small town in America provides hope for the “immigrant experience” and sends a message of “inclusion and tolerance.”

Nigam is the writer and producer of the feel-good, coming-of-age movie ‘Growing Up Smith’ that chronicles the life of the boy from India growing up in America in 1979. Nigam plays the father of the young Smith, portrayed by 14-year-old Indian-American actor Roni Akurati from Illinois.

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The film tells the Indian immigrant story and is released at a time when there is angst and concerns over immigration in the US after the election of Donald Trump as US president. Nigam expects that his movie would provide hope in the current environment of division and intolerance. “It is sad that (immigration) has become a heavy word. The word -immigration – is supposed to provide optimism and yet here we are, where the word immigration raises feeling of angst, disappointment and division,” Nigam told PTI.

He said it is ironic that there is such angst around immigration because America was build on this “optimism of immigration.” “It is the land of opportunities and when you start taking away those essential principles of this country, it certainly begins to divide and cause cynicism,” he added.

Nigam said he had not expected the movie will release at a time when there are such concerns over immigration but hoped it will provide perspective about the valuable contributions immigrants have made to the American growth story.

“When we set out to make this movie, we did not expect to be releasing it at this time but in many ways ironically this is the best time to be releasing the movie where you provide a little bit of hope for the immigrant experience, provide a little bit of inclusion and tolerance,” he said.

Nigam stressed that when people continue to divide the world with the sense that one class of people is better than the other then they are “forgetting to do the essential principles of humanity which is always to understand other peoples wants and needs and where they are coming from.

“If we don’t understand others, then we are not living as compassionate human beings… I hope this is an opportunity that we start taking down those self-imposed classification walls,” he said.

The film has had a successful run at film festivals and won the Best Picture Audience Award at the Woodstock Film Festival, the Jury Award for Best Family Feature at the Garden State Film Festival and the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Naples International Film Festival.

It tells how every immigrant family adjusts to new ways of life while trying to preserve their own traditions and values. Smith’s family tries to straddle the line between embracing the ‘American Dream’ and preserving their Indian heritage.

The film brings together a talented cast including Jason Lee, Brighton Sharbino, Hilarie Burton, Poorna Jagannathan and Samrat Chakrabarti.

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