Opening this week

‘The Big Sick’ film review: Kumail Nanjiani’s real-life romance makes for a heartwarming romcom

Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon tell the story of their cross-cultural romance with generous laughter and a teaspoonful of drama.

These are not merely political times, as The Big Sick actor Anupam Kher would agree, but times when sides must be taken and battle lines drawn.

Such sides exist in Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick too. On one hand, you have South-Asian immigrant parents who want nothing more than for their Americanised children to give in to the most obstinate desi tradition there is – to marry the partners chosen for them. On the other, you have the quintessential American dream that tells you to pursue your passion, even if it is comedy with little pay, and to find love in its cultural melting pot. Kumail Nanjiani, of Silicon Valley fame, plays a fictionalised version of himself stuck deftly in the middle, unable to pick a side.

In Chicago, Pakistani-American comic Kumail meets Emily, an aspiring therapist played with goofy charm by Zoe Kazan, after a lousy set one night. They connect, and keep connecting, even as Kumail’s parents are busy fishing for a suitable bride for their son. A bout of sickness lands Emily in coma, leaving Kumail to make a choice and own up to his feelings. Heckling and helping him along the way are Emily’s parents, played with effortless ease by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter.

Play
The Big Sick (2017).

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the plot sounds like a John Green novel in progress, but it is actually a retelling of the real life romance between Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon. Written by the pair, the movie is not only a sensitive adaptation of what must have been a painful experience to go through, but it is also a story dealt with great empathy for all its characters. None of them come across as stock stereotypes, especially Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff who play the melodramatic but ultimately forgiving parents to Kumail and have the least amount of screen time. Their badly-acted pretence every time a suitable bride just shows up to family dinner, an oft-repeated scene in the movie, is particularly fantastic.

One of the delights of watching The Big Sick is to witness the largely unexplored terrain of a brown man bonding with his American girlfriend’s parents. Ray Romano plays the awkward father, a dork who is not quite as sharp-edged as his keen wife played by Holly Hunter. He struggles to spell the ailments plaguing his daughter, and she struggles to be kind to the man who broke her daughter’s heart. Together, they go from ignoring Kumail to befriending him, letting him into their own family vault of shameful secrets and embarrassing photographs.

Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff in The Big Sick. Image credit: Amazon Studios.
Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff in The Big Sick. Image credit: Amazon Studios.

It is particularly enjoyable to witness Nanjiani play out a narrative, torn between his love and parents, which Romano popularised with the all-heart sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. As the young and the slightly aged comic indulge in banter, it felt for one hot moment that Romano was transferring his everyday leading comic mantle onto a much deserving Nanjiani. They’re both regular-looking blokes whose arms hang unsure and awkwardly on their sides, and they speak with a nasal twang and a dopey rhythm. And they’re both confident comics who can infuse even the smallest scenes with the biggest laughs.

At the centre of The Big Sick is, of course, the interracial romance that begins charmingly, loses its footing and redeems itself over. It may feel like you’re being led into that trope again – watching the man grow up and take ownership of his life, even as the woman remains absent for a good deal of the movie’s lengthe. But given that the real Emily Gordon co-wrote the story, The Big Sick gives us a female lead in Kazan who casts a wide net when she’s on screen. She unapologetically steals laughs from her comic boyfriend, and is unafraid to rip into him one every time he gets a little too self-assured for her.

While Nanjiani often rambles off during his stand-up routines in the film, his deadpan comedy is at home in the movie, elevating it during its several uncomfortable interactions. He delivers the movie’s sharpest comic punches, often in the trickiest situations. He even manages to make you laugh in scenes you would feel awful for laughing at, allowing his comedy to come from a place of abject discomfort and awkwardness.

The quintessential choice every immigrant South-Asian child has to make, between tradition and passion, is one we have seen on the screen before. The spirited Bend It Like Beckham handled it as skillfully as David Beckham would a football. In The Big Sick, Michael Showalter manages to capture the essence of that struggle without unnecessary histrionics or spoofs, allowing even minor characters to shine and be funny. A special mention must be made for Bo Burnham and Aidy Bryant who plays Kumail’s comic buddies and keep the laughter coming even when our leading man is down and out.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.