Touch of Pink: Coming Out Comedy of Gay Canadian Muslim

The coming-out comedy, Touch of Pink, is amateurish in both the positive and negative senses of the term.

Put if bluntly, it’s yet another variation of  what has become a typical gay-themed movie of yesteryear.  The feature depicts a protagonist, who is a gay Canadian Muslim, and his involvement in an interracial affair.

The film’s title derives from one of Cary Grant’s lesser efforts, the 1962 Touch of Mink, with Doris Day. The movie’s central gimmick is all too familiar. The suave ghost of Grant is used here as a one-man Greek chorus, a guardian angel commenting on the plot and the character’s actions. In his 1937 classic comedy, Topper, Grant himself played a similar character, a mischievous debonair ghost determined to wreak havoc on the life of a timid banker (played by Roland Young). As the protagonist’s confidante, Kyle MacLachlan (with heavy make and prosthetics) evokes Grant’s look and spirit proficiently, though he not as dead-on as Tony Curtis was in his imitation of Grant in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot.

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press, August 2015).

Opposites attract. Alim (Jimi Mistry, who made an impression in the 2002 comedy, Guru) is a young, intelligent gay Muslim living in London with his charming, very British boyfriend, Giles (Kristen Holden-Reid). Things get complicated when Alim’s mother arrives in town, unaware of her son’s sexual orientation, let alone his live-in companion. Starting with this premise, the routine comedy follows all the requisite steps, complications, encounters, and resolutions.

I am sure it’s still not easy to be openly gay in Muslim culture, even though Alim lives in London and his family in Toronto. What’s striking about writer-director Ian Iqbal Rashid’s film is that it shows how similar all mothers are. How universal their reactions (sort of ‘what have I done wrong’) are. How easily they’re persuaded to accept their sons’ orientation and lifestyle, when faced with the basic facts and the right gay lovers. In one of the film’s most amusingly romantic scenes, Alim’s mom is taken on a date by Giles and is completely swept away by his charm and savoir vivre.

Except for the mother, all the characters, including the central couple, are one-dimensional. But this is particularly the case of Alim’s family, his bourgeois materialistic aunt, his stern and conservative uncle, and his phony and duplicitous cousin, who’s about to be married but doesn’t see any problem with continuing to fool around with Alim. Considering that the film was written by an insider, it’s surprising full of racial stereotypes and cliches.

The film ends on a boisterous note with a big wedding, which in color and costume represents a pale imitation of Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding. Truths are disclosed, relationships are felicitously cemented, and all characters are happier. Though good-natured and well-intentioned, Touch of Pink is an outdated by-the-book comedy that belongs to another era.