Bend it like
is, in many ways, like Indian curry with extra masala
Its rich, steamy flavour of tummy jiggling humour in a London
corner, where Whites and Asians share fences, faux pas and fancies, is perhaps
why Gurinder Chadha's film topped the British charts for weeks, grossing more
than 11 million pounds.
Coexistence is the core ingredient, like spices in
curry, of the two-hour film that is releasing here on July 12.
Like in the
teeth-clenching irritations of the protagonist, Jaswinder (Jess) as she copes
with the neo-orthodoxies of her Sikh family trying to keep alive its traditions,
and her own obsession with football, and its chic poster-boy David
"Everybody likes Beckham. No one can bend the ball like him," Jess
says in the film.
Co-existence, for instance, in the friendship between
Jess and the English Juliette, who bond like blood sisters, while kicking balls
And co-existence also in both their mothers who agonise on
their marital prospects, lament their small breasts and fear that they are
All of which, like the apprehensions of mothers usually are, turn
out to be completely unfounded.
This is not, contrary to promos, an Asian
angst film. Despite the liberal garnishing of stereotypes of religion, modesty
and "good behaviour" there's no escaping that this is, basically, a British
Made by a Briton, for Britons. "No one assumed that because the film
featured Asian characters that it would only appeal to Asian audiences," wrote
Chadha in "Connecting", a British Council magazine in India.
wrote: "I was tired of 'issue films' about British Asians that only saw race and
culture as a problem.
"I wanted to make a feel good comedy that
authentically showed how people in a corner of West London live and truly
captured the way both children and parents have to bend the rules to achieve
"Bend It. . ." therefore is really about the bending of
rules, social paradigms and lives -- all to finally curl that ball, bending it
like Beckham, through the goalpost of ambition.
It about Jess' dad, subtly
and beautifully played by Anupam Kher, once banned from playing cricket because
of his turban. And whose prejudices surge strong even today as he tells Jess'
Irish coach: "There are no Indian players in the men's side, do you think
they'll let our women play?"
"But Nasir Hussain is our cricket captain. He
is Indian!" retorts his indignant daughter.
"He is from a Muslim family,
they are different," snaps her mother.
There it is -- the divide. Subtle,
understated, but so very much there. Whether with Punjabis complaining that
their neighbours were always "upset" about their (noisy) celebrations, or Jess'
football coach saying he understood what it felt like to be called a "Paki"
because he was Irish.
The creeping divide shows that Britain is changing,
but hasn't quite changed yet.
The stiff upper lip has travelled miles from
the time Chadha's father was denied a pint at some pubs at Southall, but like
dollops of coagulated spice in badly stirred curry, discrimination crops up to
spoil the taste, every now and then, in multi-racial Britain.
is right in saying that her film is not only about "issues". It is about
laughter, great mixing of Punjabi and Western music that includes everybody from
Victoria Beckham, Bally Sagoo, Mel C, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Bina
It's about living and loving together. And you know that Britain
has really bent towards the East, when Juliette's mother tells Jess to "teach
her some of our culture, especially respecting your elders."
course, the Hindi tattoo on Beckham's arm that spells
Gurinder Chada speaks
about her movie
Beckham has always been bigger than the
game - with or without our film