When President Bush visited India in 2006, writer Anuvab Pal watched the news coverage with curiosity, particularly when Bush interacted with young businessmen at a local university.
"He wanted to know about India and the real problems of India," said Pal. But instead, the Indian businessmen tripped over themselves to impress Bush with their Americanness.
"They were saying things like, 'When I was at Merrill Lynch in New York' or 'I started a business in El Paso in your home state' and he was asking about the caste system. There was such a disconnect," Pal said.
As a result, Pal was inspired to write a play, which he and producer Rohan Sippy turned into the hilarious new film "The President Is Coming."
The movie was released today across India, although an oil strike is preventing many people from reaching the theaters because much of the country is without gasoline. Nov. 28, the film's original release date, was delayed because of the Mumbai attacks.
The premise of the film is that President Bush is headed to India and while there he wants to meet a typical young Indian and shake his or her hand. A public relations agency with expertise in all things "American" searches across India for the best candidates.
Six finalists representing various sectors of the new and growing India are chosen to compete for the honor. The six include a writer, a NGO worker, a stockbroker, an entrepreneur, a computer programmer and an accent trainer.
"It symbolizes so much of the last eight years with the idea of 'young India' and 'shining India' and the media's portrayal of 'young India,'" said Sippy.
The battery of tests includes everything from identifying photographs of famous Americans (Britney Spears was known but Colin Powell was mistaken for Nelsen Mandela) to reciting some of Bush's most ridiculous quotations ("Singapore is the capital of Asia.")
But some of the most humorous parts of the film were the short interactions outside of the competition, like when one contestant criticized another for his xenophobia:
"You're a narrow-minded chauvinist who hates people from different cultural backgrounds," accuses the pro-American contestant.
"But that is just like Bush," the pro-Indian says in his defense.
Most of the contestants' time is spent inside the U.S. Consulate, which is decorated with "American" images like a David Hasselhoff poster that says "Don't Hassle the Hoff." All of these were inspired by the real consulate in Mumbai, which Pal said is decorated with an old poster of the Grand Canyon and a photograph of the A-Team from the television series of the same name.
The English language film is a departure from traditional Bollywood films full of love stories and singing. This comedy is more like "Rushmore" than "Love in Kashmir."
The face of the fictional Bush is never seen in the film, but clips of actual news overage from his 2006 visit are shown throughout the movie.
"If it's a comment on George Bush, it's a comment about how there's a little bit of his stupidity in everyone," said director Kunaal Roy Kapur.