Roshan Sethi’s 7 Days sets its sights on skewering traditional Indian-American dating rituals and, in the process, actually makes a wonderful statement about the unpredictable nature of life. No matter how many things we have set in place, everything can be turned on its head in the blink of an eye. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that plans are often just a suggestion and rarely go exactly according to plan. This is an interesting dynamic to examine in Indian culture that is rife with tradition and expectations. The same could be said for any culture, quite frankly. Sethi’s 7 Days shows that love has no timeline, often comes from unexpected places, and won’t stop even for a pandemic.
In the film’s opening moments, we certainly do get a slight When Harry Met Sally vibe as we see different Indian couples recounting how they met. Indian-American culture certainly takes their dating rituals quite seriously. However, in the age of masks and social distancing, this can be a challenge. Who knows what my wife would have thought about me if our first meeting happened over Zoom? This certainly isn’t an issue for Ravi (Karan Soni) and Rita (Geraldine Viswanathan). A shelter in place order kicks in right after they conclude their awkward first date, which forces these two to stay together.
7 Days is really a film about insecurity. No matter corner of the globe one resides, or what your culture may be, the questions of marriage at some point will come up. Are you going to settle down? When is the “big day”? Are kids in the future? Traditional Indian-American culture expects that once someone reaches a certain age, they can get married and start a family. Parents often are involved in the process. Ravi has been told all his life that this is the way, and he very much wants that to make his family proud. Doesn’t seem like a great reason to marry someone to me? Rita rejects these cultural traditions as antiquated. If cursing, drinking, and eating leftover chicken for breakfast made someone “wife material,” then she’d have tons of guys wanting to marry her. Her idea of intimacy is having an affair with a married man (voiced by executive producer Mark Duplass). Ravi is afraid of letting everyone down, and Rita’s rejection of cultural traditions is an act of fear as well. Ravi can’t be told how she doesn’t measure up if she never puts herself out there.
There is certainly a portion of the film which gave me pause and it also happens to be the most predictable portion of the 7 Days. Without giving too much of the film away, it’s hard to not wonder if there were other ways they could have demonstrated how great a guy Ravi was. For a film which for almost 2/3 of this narrative managed to be unconventional and a breath of fresh air, to see how the last 1/3 of the film unfolded was quite jarring.
Cinematographer Jeremy Mackie attempted to give the 80-minute film a stylistic feel even though it was shot in a single home during the pandemic. Between the closeups (which were a bit too close for my liking) and the use of handheld to see how at ease they were with one another it felt like might have overthought his approach to shooting the film. Sometimes less is more.
Ravi is neurotic as hell, but it’s that very thing that makes him so endearing. Rita is standoffish and abrasive, but when paired with Ravi, it seemingly makes sense. Sethi and Viswanathan’s chemistry together is likely a contributing factor. Are there trope-filled moments in the film? Sure, but it’s also those moments that provide us with a turning point in their relationship. Sometimes those moments are necessary. If anything, 7 Days is a perfect example of how eliminating all of these mechanisms for dating and just getting to know someone is always best, even if it happens during a global crisis.