Keeping Up with the Kandasamys was shot on the RED Epic Dragon.”
“Authencity is key in storytelling. We wanted to ensure that the flavours of Chatsworth were captured. This was a unique opportunity to put Chatsworth on the big screen and we had to be true to its vibrant spirit.” – director Jayan Moodley
The vibrant lifestyle, authentic mannerisms and colourful textures of one of the oldest South African Indian communities takes centre stage in the film, Keeping Up with the Kandasamys – a witty play on the much-publicised Keeping up with the Kardashians reality series in which the famous family’s dirty laundry seems to keep enthralled viewers glued to their small screens weekly. Much like the Kardashians, the Kandasamys have captured South African audiences on the big screen so much so that the film garnered over R1.6 million in its opening weekend at the Ster-Kinekor box office. Furthermore, the movie has recently been reported to have made over R14.7 million in its seventh week on circuit.
“Keeping Up with the Kandasamys is a story about friendship, family, space and identity, and most importantly about love and forgiveness. It centres around two women, Jennifer Kandasamy (Jailoshini Naidoo) and Shanti Naidoo (Maeshni Naicker) who have an immense hatred for each other. Their suspicion turns to shock and then horror as they face the realisation that their children have fallen in love. So they team up with the ‘mother-of-all-plans’ to break them up and instead find each other in the process,” explains director Jayan Moodley.
The film is centred on these two lead actresses who both previously have been residents of Chatsworth. Much to their delight, the film pays homage to this historic and lively town which rarely gets recognised as a film location of choice. With that in mind the director sees to it that the hidden gems of Chatsworth are captured while also giving the viewer a feel of the warm city of Durban and its outskirts. “Authencity is key in storytelling. We wanted to ensure that the flavours of Chatsworth were captured. This was a unique opportunity to put Chatsworth on the big screen and we had to be true to its vibrant spirit,” Moodley says.
Casting for the film took place primarily in Durban over four days before moving to Johannesburg for a further two days of auditions. The young couple Prishen Naidoo (Madhushan Singh) and Jodi Kandasamy (Mishqah Parthiephal) beautifully bring their modern redemption of the romantic classic, Romeo and Juliet into character, while their disapproving mothers leave no scene unscathed as they give life to the ‘mother-in-law from hell’ phenomenon.
Unlike Moodley’s rather dramatic debut into the film scene with White Gold in 2010, she decided to have some fun in her second take, with co-writer Rory Booth helping her bring the laughing stitches to this well-played slapstick comedy drama. “The story provides a window into one of South Africa’s vibrant and colourful sub-cultures. I truly believe that real nation-building can take place when there is not just an acceptance of each other but an understanding of the different cultures in South Africa; what better medium than that of film, and what better genre than that of comedy to draw in the audiences and achieve this objective,” Moodley remarks.
Filming took place in July and August over a five-week period with African Lotus Productions and the late Junaid Ahmed’s production company. The film also takes time to honour the esteemed producer, as he was very much involved in the production of the film and worked alongside co-producer Helena Spring to ensure that Moodley’s vision became a reality.
During production, the crew and cast noted that they received the most amazing hospitality from residents of the area. Thereafter the film crew decided to return the favour by visiting Chatsworth school Wingen Heights Secondary and giving the staff and learners an opportunity to take pictures with the cast, who also signed autographs with their endearing fans as a token of their appreciation.
Keeping Up with the Kandasamys was shot on the RED Epic Dragon; a decision which Moodley says was made after a consultative meeting between her, the producers and DOP Justus de Jager. For Moodley, the most important aspect to get right regarding the look and feel of the film was to make the viewer feel as though they were present within an Indian South African home. “The brief was to capture colour, vibrancy and a sense of liveliness that is prevalent. We stuck to our colour palette of cream and ‘kungum’ and kept the shots clean and focused on telling the story,” she comments.
“Overall the film has really struck a chord,” affirms Moodley who attributes the success of the film to its simplicity and authencity. “Every person I speak to tells me about a character they can relate to or about how true that ‘one scene’ was.”
It is no surprise that the film’s reach has stretched over to more than its close-knit Chatsworth community and even further than its cosmopolitan city of Durban. Beneath all the snotty and hilarious punchlines; a powerful underlying message resonates with everyone regardless of ethnicity, geographic standing and social standard. “The message of the film is really about forgiveness and the heavy burden we carry within ourselves when we hold onto some sort of grudge. It’s about family, happiness and about a people that band together as a community with such resilience. I think African audiences are in search of comedy and different stories, and it will certainly resonate with both African and international audiences,” Moodley concludes.
Keeping Up with the Kandasamys was produced in association with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission (KZNFC), Durban Film Office (DFO) and M-Net.
Director: Jayan Moodley
Producers: Helena Spring and Junaid Ahmed
Associate producers: Suda Sing and Gill Pearson
DOP: Justus de Jager
Editor: Nicholas Costaras