The Playback Singer

The Playback Singer

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The Playback Singer (2013/2014)

Opened: 11/14/2014 Limited

World Premiere03/01/2013
Music Hall 311/14/2014 - 11/20/20147 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

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Genre: Comedy/Drama (English and Hindi w/English subtitles)

Rated: Unrated

It Just Takes One Flat Note To Throw A Family Out Of Tune.

THE PLAYBACK SINGER tells the story of an aimless, would-be, jungle-gym architect who finds his existence disrupted -- and his marriage upended -- when his prickly, Indian, B-movie playback singer father-in-law comes to visit and overstays his welcome.

An original feature script written by director Suju Vijayan, THE PLAYBACK SINGER is a family drama spiked with comedy, which gets to the heart of relationships and of the challenges of finding our place in this world.


Ray and Priya are a middle class married couple in their 30s living in Van Nuys, California. Priya -- a public interest lawyer -- is the rock of the couple: hard working, responsible, and caring. Ray is madly in love with his wife, but has spent his entire life trying to figure out what he wants to be, and, much to Priya's frustration, still hasn't decided. Their marriage is on shaky ground.

When Priya learns that her estranged father, Ashok -- who has worked his entire professional life as a mid-level playback singer in India (a vocalist who dubs actors' singing voices in movie musicals, but is never seen on screen) -- is traveling from India to the U.S. on a concert tour and wants to stay with them, she's eager to welcome him to her home. Ray is less thrilled at the prospect, and thinks that Ashok is a "big time dick" because of how he's treated Priya throughout her life. Ashok hasn't seen Priya in over 16 years, since before her mother -- his second of five wives -- died. And when her mother died, Ashok didn't even bother to show up at the funeral. Priya convinces Ray to let Ashok stay with them, even though that means the barely-employed Ray will be stuck spending his days with his father-in-law.

Ashok arrives and immediately puts Ray off with his brusque, often ignorant behavior and attitudes, though Priya remains hopeful that she and her father will make a real connection. When the three of them show up at Ashok's first concert, there's nobody there. It turns out the whole thing was a scam. Not only is Ashok's ego wounded, he's also invested $8,000 into the tour, and it doesn't look like he can get it back. Priya wants to help him get justice, but Ashok prefers to forget all about it and just go back to India. Ray sees that Priya is hurt by her father's eagerness to leave, and takes it upon himself to coerce Ashok into staying. Ashok agrees to stick around, but spends most of his time drinking or complaining or both.

Ray, meanwhile, is trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. He hasn't found a calling since quitting his job as a teacher almost a year ago, and is now struggling to get a design and construction company off the ground. His first assignment -- to build a jungle gym for his friend, Nathan's, soon-to-arrive adoptive daughter -- is at a standstill. Turns out Ray talks about working on the jungle gym a whole lot more than he actually works on it, which frustrates Nathan and especially his wife, Jade. Ashok gets involved in this conflict, -- in large part to impress the beautiful Jade -- but much to Ray's surprise he convinces Jade to give Ray a chance to finish the project. The two men begin to bond.

At the same time, Priya is working long, hard hours on a case she hopes will right some wrongs as well as net her some much needed additional pay. She tries, unsuccessfully, to keep Ray on course career-wise, but when she finds out she's pregnant, her already growing anxiety level hits a new high. Priya isn't sure Ray is a man she should have a baby with, and she's fairly certain he doesn't want to be a dad. She may be right. When Ray finds out Priya is pregnant, their already troubled marriage hits a point of possibly no return, and Priya begins to realize that her husband may be more like her father than she'd like to believe.

While Priya and Ray struggle with their marriage, Ashok, to everyone's surprise, is thrilled at the prospect of becoming a grandfather. Ashok tries to talk Ray into embracing fatherhood, but Ray finds the advice hypocritical coming from such a failure of a father. But almost in spite of himself, Ashok is getting to the heart of Ray's fears of fatherhood, which are directly tied to other insecurities -- including his inability to complete the jungle gym.

Eventually, Ray realizes that unless he can build this jungle gym, he may go through life never believing he can accomplish anything. And Ashok finds love where he least expected it -- with his daughter. As for Priya, it's up to her to decide if she can find space for either or both of these men in her life.