& How to Watch Them:
Bend It Like Beckham (2002): Spoiler: It’s less about bending it like Beckham and more about 2nd generation immigrants bending the rules and expectations set upon them.
Bhaji on the Beach (1993): Chadha’s directorial debut is an inter-cultural, intergenerational, story of racism, divorce, pregnancy, feminism, consumerism, and a seaside lights show.
Bride and Prejudice (2005): It’s Jane Austen meets Bollywood, yeah, but it’s more than just swapping saris for empire waists. Both skewer the rigid conventions of their cultures, only this one has better music.
You did it, Gurinder Chadha, you made me love a sports movie.
Of course, I loved you long before I saw Bend It Like Beckham, I loved you the minute I turned on the TV in my teenage bedroom and a bunch of loud, complex Indian women were half way to Blackpool in Bhaji on the Beach. They were like the Punjabi girls in my home town who were my friends, but whose lives, pulled between generations and cultures, I could never fully see. You gave me a window into a world that wasn’t mine. I fell in love, but I didn’t know who you were.
Ten years later, you pulled me into a Punjabi family, and I fell in love again. Bend It Like Beckham was about so many things, soccer, of course, and young love, love of people and of ideas and of dreams. It was about cute shoes, trying to be someone you can’t, and about the knife’s edge an adolescent Punjabi-British girl must walk to become a woman she and her parents can respect. It was things I’d seen in life but never seen in art.
And it SINGS. It made me understand that a sports movie, like a musical, is about emotions too big for the regular world. From the soccer field to a living room full of aunties, it pulses with energy. And BODIES! You make us fall in love with young women’s bodies as things that are powerful and dynamic. Bend It Like Beckham understands that in some women’s lives, a foul kick can be more important than a wedding, and that round chapatis can be as daunting a challenge as the World Cup.
You fill your movies with color, movement, songs, and love. Thank you, Gurinder Chadha, for sharing your artistry, and your mother’s Aloo Gobi recipe. They are both delicious.
(P.S. Bride and Prejudice was good, too)