The Illegal is a 2019 Indian American English-language drama film written and directed by Danish Renzu and produced by Tara Tucker, and Danish Renzu. The film premiered at the 2019 Austin Film Festival under the official feature narrative section and made its way to Amazon Prime Video in March 2021. The 86-minute long film stars Suraj Sharma, Shweta Tripathi, Adil Hussain, Neelima Azeem, Jay Ali, and Iqbal Theba alongside other cast members.
Undocumented = Illegal
The Illegal tells the story of Hassan, an aspiring filmmaker with his eyes full of dreams, the American dream. Hassan gets the opportunity to travel to America to fulfil his dream while studying in one of the finest film schools but life has different plans for him. For Hassan, filmmaking is beyond just a potential vocation, it is a way of expressing himself. He yearns to showcase his talent on the global stage and believes he has what it takes to become a successful filmmaker.
Upon his arrival, Hassan is faced by the fact that his relative, who he was supposed to live with for a while isn’t doing well financially, forcing him to leave his place shortly after. After this, Hassan is seen sleeping on benches in America and it is here that he happens to meet Babaji, an aged man who dreams of going back to his daughter after 25 years of toiling. He offers him food, gets him a waiting job in a Delhi Cafe, and supports him like his own son. Life is hard for Hassan but he tries to balance the fiscal deficit and his education.
Things are already on the edge for him when he comes to know that his father has suffered a cardiac arrest and needs urgent money and there aren’t enough finances. This also clarifies that he won’t be able to pay his college fees leading him to drop out to support his family while staying in the United States as an undocumented worker i.e, an illegal immigrant.
The Illegal is not a perfect film but it finds its roots in its flaws. It’s a poignant depiction of people who go to America in hopes of a new life, only to have it all go dreadfully wrong due to the whims of fate. Sharma’s Hassan is perfectly cast, full of youthful idealism and naivety. His character understanding and depth are some major moving factors in the film. The film also features an amazing supporting cast that lifts the entire storyline up rather than deforming it at any point.
Throughout its duration, The Illegal is engaging and it does not add unnecessary optimism to the storyline at any point. It is honest and raw in its approach and brings forth the possibility of everything colliding down no matter how hard you try. There is no rags to riches here, just an honest struggle story. The film is more than a call for empathy but rather a question in itself i.e., is the American dream actually as easy as they pretend it to be? And what would you do if you were Hassan?
Stream It or Skip It
Stream It! The Illegal has a good cast, an impressively honest storyline, and very rare bleak moments. The film offers a realistic picture and has some genuinely heartbreaking moments.
I just wish Babaji could have seen her daughter Geeta for once.
The Illegal is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.
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