She’s the woman who made the iconic film, Bend It Like Beckham. As Gurinder Chadha readies for the release of her next, It’s A Wonderful Afterlife, we find out what makes her flicks click.
Marriage seems to be a recurring theme in your movies, inluding your forthcoming film, It’s A Wonderful Afterlife.
Well, marriage is uppermost in almost every Indian’s mind. From the time a child is born, she is being moulded into a perfect bride who is supposed to be beautiful, submissive, definitely not more intelligent than her husband and able to dish out a desi meal in minutes. In my films though, the women are shown to be more than just a daughter, wife and mother. She’s someone who does what she wants to do as opposed to what she’s told to do.
Were there pressures on you to conform to this traditional stereotype too?
(Laughs) My mother got a bridal suit stitched for me when she came to visit my grandparents in India. And guess how old I was at the time? No more than six! I wore it when I got married to Paul (Mayeda-Berges) when I was in my 30s. It was still classically beautiful.
Were you a rebel, like Jess in Bend It Like Beckham?
Well, I certainly rebelled against learning how to cook, much to the exasperation of my grandmother. Despite her best efforts, beeji couldn’t turn me into a good Indian girl.
Did you ever learn how to cook?
I did, but I only started making chapatis recently because my twins, Kumiko and Ronak, love garam rotis with loads of butter. I never made chapatis for any man but I do now for my kids.
Apparently, you didn’t like wearing Indian clothes once upon a time.
I didn’t, that’s why there are pictures of me at weddings and family occasions, back in the ’70s, in these hideous three-piece suits with big flared pants, waistcoats and scarves. I didn’t want to be cast in the traditional Indian doll mould.
How would you define It’s A Wonderful Afterlife?
I look at it as a fantasy. If a woman anywhere in the world was scorned or rejected in love, I would think this is how she would react. There are so few comedies made from the female perspective but in my film the woman rules. Women need to come and see the film, and so do men, to know what to expect if they put a foot wrong in a relationship.
Was Gurinder Chadda ever scorned and what happened to the guy in her life?
(Laughs) You can probably still see his scars. Actually I had plenty of suitors. When Paul came to ask for
permission to marry me, my dad showed him a pile of letters from other men asking for my hand. I didn’t know he had hoarded them. It was really sweet!