Abbey Monteiro’s Bad Indian “The Villain Origin Story” is a high-energy roller coaster ride of a coming-of-age story. Immersing us in its main character’s (also called Abbey) here and now – which just happens to be at a club with her bestie – Monteiro’s short aims to “tear up the stereotype of being British Indian”. A semi-autobiographical tale inspired by the “many stupid, hilarious and dramatic” moments of her own life, Bad Indian presents a complex character, just looking for a fun time.
Following a character’s quest to blow off a little steam isn’t a novel idea in the filmmaking world, especially from the perspective of a young writer/director, but what gives Monteiro’s short an edge is Abbey’s narration and how it reveals the undertones of her specific situation to its audience. With a decline from the college her mother wanted her to attend and the general pressures of a strict Indian/Catholic household on her shoulders, Abbey is feeling the strain and determined to have a wild night out.
As Monteiro communicates what it’s like to be a young person in a club through the exaggerated use of neon lights, close ups, and still frame collages, there’s a semi-nostalgic diary-esque feel to the short, with that aforementioned voiceover adding warmth and intimacy. The delivery and depth of that narration clashes with the uninhibited atmosphere of the club setting, perfectly delivering the conflicting feelings Abbey is currently unravelling. Like Abbey we’re having fun (as a viewer), but we’re also concerned.
Contrasting emotions were also key in Monteiro’s aims for her short, as the writer/director reveals she was “hoping to just make people feel something, whether it was joy, laughter or sadness” with her short. On the surface, Bad Indian is a light-hearted comedy, but like many of the successful films in this genre there’s a greater objective here, which adds a necessary complexity to make the short standout. Looking to present a relatable portrayal South Asian women as they “have to deal with leading a double life of living up to their parents high standards but also assimilating to British culture”, this is a story looking to show that we need to allow “brown women to be chaotic, provocative and angry failures with all the repercussions”.
It’s indicated in the title that this is Abbey’s “villain story“, but it’s pretty clear from watching the short that there’s no actual villain here. Abbey is a likable and relatable character, who we understand and empathize with, despite (or maybe because) of her faults (which really aren’t faults). From what we understand of her family situation, she is too hard on herself, but it is this self-critical outlook that many of us will connect with and ultimately make us root for her. Her confidence is wavering and she’s clearly wasted, but if Abbey is a “villain”, then I am too.
Created as part of the NFTS x Prime Video Directors workshop, a 12-month course designed specifically to increase the number of people from under-represented groups working in screen directing, Bad Indian saw Monteiro team-up with S/W alum producer Jordi Morera (The Retreat). Usually working as an art director in the advertising world, this is Monteiro’s first foray into the world of narrative filmmaking and if this short is an indicator of her potential, we can’t wait to see her career flourish.