Seeing as Gurinder Chadha has just won this year’s Women and Hollywood trailblazer award, we thought it was as good a time as any to do a spotlight at her! Being a feminist icon, we definitely think that she’s a worthy subject of our spotlight feature! If you can’t recall who she is, let me refresh your memory: she is best known for making well-loved British films Bhaji On the Beach and Bend it like Beckham (although she’s directed many other great under-the radar documentaries and films), and her latest film Viceroy’s House was met with mostly positive reviews.
Gurinder Chadha is known for talking about the issues Indian immigrants face when they come to England in her films. In particular, she seems to be fascinated with the struggles of the younger generation: on the one hand they must follow and respect the rules of their parents who are very traditional, and on the other hand they are hand we see them try to fit into modern UK society. It seems that Chadha has always broken away from tradition: when grew up she refused to wear traditional Indian clothing and refused to cook for her family, even though this is considered to be an important aspect of Indian culture. This is perhaps where she got some of the inspiration for the character of Jesminder in Bend it like Beckham (which we will talk about more later!). However, although she does not have the same religious views that her parents did, she does believe in fate “I do believe in fate. That’s a very Indian thing, but I do believe that everything happens for a reason and what goes around comes around. I suppose what I’m saying is that I believe in Karma”.
Gurinder Chadha’s career took off after her first feature film Bhaji On the Beach, which was the first full feature film made by a British Asian woman. She received a BAFTA for Best British Film of 1994 as well as the Evening Standard British Film Award for ‘Best Newcomer to British Cinema’. The film is about a day in the life of several Indian women, and how their culture and customs have changed to fit in with life in the UK. We can see that the younger Indian women have more progressive views than their older counterparts, and that they are trying to break free from their archaic beliefs.
The other film where we can see that the Indian Women trying to break away from the traditional role of the Indian woman is Bend it like Beckham (2002). Jesminder, the daughter of a Orthodox Sikh decides to rebel against her parents traditionalism and join a football team. Prior to Slumdog Millionaire, Bend it like Beckham was the highest grossing British-financed and British-distributed film ever, and received many nominations: a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture in a Musical or Comedy, a BAFTA Nomination for Best British Film, a European Film Academy nomination for best film and Writers Guild of America nomination for Best Original Screenplay. It is a film much beloved by all and is even considered by some as an important post-feminist film. We love it and think it should be compulsory viewing for all families with young daughters!
Although Gurinder Chadha’s films may seem simple on the surface, they are full of social issues that are worth examining. If films can be thought-provoking and provoke huge laughter at the same time, then they are worth watching in our eyes.