Review: Bend it like Beckham is like curry

10 Jul 2002, 2050 hrs IST, IANS
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15588142-left- NEW DELHI: Bend it like Beckham is, in many ways, like Indian curry with extra masala topping.
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 Beckham.
"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 otherwise.
And co-existence also in both their mothers who agonise on their marital prospects, lament their small breasts and fear that they are lesbians.
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 film.
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.
She also 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 their dreams."
"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.
Chadha though 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 Mistry.
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."
And, of course, the Hindi tattoo on Beckham's arm that spells "Victoria".

Gurinder Chada speaks about her movie
  Beckham has always been bigger than the game - with or without our film
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