Happy Birthday, Gurinder Chadha!
From 1990 to the present day, Chadha has built a prolific career as a director and screenwriter. She first began working as an anchor for the British Broadcasting Channel, moving on to direct documentaries for the network before eventually starting her own production company, Umbi Films. As a British filmmaker of Indian descent, her narrative feature filmography addresses social issues, primarily focusing on the lives of Indian women. She is known for coming-of-age films that balance comedy and drama while also exploring family dynamics. Their subject matter is often rooted in her own personal experience.
In 2002, Chadha released Bend it Like Beckham, which is widely considered her most popular film. It follows high school student Jesminder “Jess Kaur Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) as she joins a local soccer team against the will of her strict parents. Jan Lisa Huttner describes the movie as “multi-cultural feminist fun,” comparing it to “A League of Their Own, Blue Crush and Monsoon Wedding.” Although “Bend It Like Beckham was the highest-grossing Indian-themed film at the U.S box office since Academy Award Best Picture Gandhi (1982),” Georgiana E. Presecky writes in an article for FF2 Media, “Chadha was quick to point out the gender disparity that still plagued the film industry, even later in her career.”
After attending Birds Eye View’s “An Intimate Conversation with Gurinder Chadha” in 2017, Nicola Freedman wrote about Chadha’s perspective at the event, “[Chadha] recalled the many years in between films and her struggles to get them made. Discussing the box office hit and beloved film, Bend it Like Beckham, she expressed her frustration at appearing on numerous diversity panels while being unable to have the film green-lit. Instead, she received notes that it would be impossible to find an Indian girl who could play football… Only after personally confronting those in power and threatening to go to the press, was she able to make the film. Bend it Like Beckham, she proudly stated, is the only film to be released in every country (even North Korea screened a somewhat-censored version).” Check out the rest of Nicola’s article and read more about Chadha’s insight here.
Her third film, Bride and Prejudice, was also successful, receiving nominations for two British Independent Film Awards in 2004. The movie is based on Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice with a Bollywood-style musical twist. “One thing was clear to me: If I was going to do a ‘Bollywood; film, I had to be very clear about who my audience was. I don’t make films that are Eurocentric and I don’t make them so that they are Indocentric. I make films that are Diaspora-centered. I operate in global cultural paradigm, so that’s the kind of the movie I wanted to make,” Chadha shared in an interview with Jan Lisa Huttner for FF2 Media, “I wanted people to be continually aware of the novel, because I took a very alien film language, which is Bollywood, and I combined it with traditional English literature, and for me that’s the metaphor for integration. I want you to know side-by-side that you are looking at something that is 200 years old and English, and you’re also looking at something that’s very modern and Indian, and look how beautifully these two things can work together!”
Next up, Chadha has announced plans to helm a Hindi-English language remake of the acclaimed French film L’Argent. She is also set to direct Pashmina, a story about an Indian-American mother and daughter based on the graphic novel of the same name written by Nidhi Chanani. These projects do not currently have a release date.
In Nicola’s article, she wrote that Chadha stressed “the importance of actively supporting female filmmakers at the cinema, especially on the opening weekend, [stating] that women can no longer be passive in the fight for change within this historically male-dominated industry.” For now, you can support Gurinder Chadha by watching Bend it Like Beckham on HBO Max!
© Anna Nappi (1/10/22) Special for FF2 Media.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured photo: Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley in Bend it Like Beckham. Film Council.
Bottom photo: Gurinder Chadha. Filmförderung Hamburg.