Meet Gurinder Chadha

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Festival in Gurinder Chadha at the 8th annual Sikh International Film  Festival in New York is the filmmaker of 'Bend it Like Beckham'

Gurinder Chadha

Gurinder Chadha at Sikh International Film Festival

It’s that time of the year again when the annual Sikh International Film Festival takes place – and this year one of the featured guests is film-maker Gurinder Chadha who is a panelist at the inaugural Leadership Summit and is being honored with an Arts award. at the Sikh Heritage Gala on October 15 at Cipriani.

Lassi with Lavina caught up with the hugely popular director in London to get a heads-up on the festival which starts tomorrow.  Here’s Gurinder Chadha on her award, the Sikh Film Festival, the changing face of Southall and – ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ – the Musical.

A Quickie Interview with Gurinder Chadha

Q: What are your thoughts on getting the Sikh Heritage Award?

Gurinder Chadha: I think it’s always wonderful to be honored for what you’re doing and always wonderful to be honored by your own. So yes, I’m very pleased!

Q: How far do you think the Sikh community has come?

Gurinder Chadha: The Sikh community has made huge strides in all kinds of areas globally and I think it’s part of the Sikh ethic to go out and forge new ground and  be warrior-like. I think that’s kind of what I do and the reason I’ve been able to break so many boundaries and barriers is because I have that Sikh fighting spirit in me!

Q: How is the community creating awareness of the issues important to it, especially with regard to discrimination or hate crimes?

Gurinder Chadha: Well, of course any Indian has those concerns but the Sikhs have very much a can-do attitude – we have a very socialist kind of outlook – we go all over the world with our langar system and the redistribution of wealth and I think it’s a very human, humane philosophy that Sikhs are born into.

Q: What do you think is the importance of Sikh Film Festivals in the diaspora and how much do you think they can help in spotlighting the Sikh identity?

Gurinder Chadha: There are Sikh Film Festivals in the UK, as well as in California, New York, Vancouver and Toronto. It’s all good because it shows how active we are and also how important the visual image is to Sikhs.

Gurinder Chadha with Sendhil Ramamurthy and Goldy Notay on the sets of 'It's a Wonderful Afterlife'

Q: You grew up in Southall and I was wondering how that neighborhood had changed since you were a kid?

Gurinder Chadha: Well, it’s changed enormously in that it’s a very confident Asian community –  a lot of people have done very well in Southall  and so many of the villages and towns surrounding have big mansions which are populated by people who’ve  made their money in Southall. It also has a great satellite appeal – many people go for food, shopping, for the movies, for the gurudwaras, the mandirs, and the masjids  – so it’s very much the pulse, the heartbeat of the Sikh Punjabi community of London.

Q: Tell us about your upcoming movie about Indian independence and Partition in 2012 , which I heard is based on ‘Freedom at Midnight‘?

Gurinder Chadha: It’s based on a popular text and some original stories too but it’s looking at the role of British  in the time leading up to Partition, focusing  on the timeline from  January  47 to  August 47 and what exactly happened at that time and how Partition came about. So it’s a British period piece about why India was divided.

Q: So that‘s a different kind of movie for you, different from what you have done before. A challenge to go into the past really?

Gurinder Chadha: Aboslutely –yes, yes.  Most people want me to do “Bend it Like Beckham’ over and over again!

Q: Well, we all love ‘Bend it Like Beckham’!

Gurinder Chadha: The good news is that we are doing the stage musical version of ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ – West End and Broadway!

Q: Here I hope you’ll take the love story a bit further and not leave us in the dark, wondering about what happens to Jess and Joe. We want to see them happily married!

Gurinder Chadha:  (Laughs) The good thing about doing a stage musical is that you have to go much deeper on the emotions for the songs so for people who liked the movie it will be an altogether thrilling kind of musical – it will give them the movie  – plus a lot more.

Q: Do you have the casting in place for the musical?

Gurinder Chadha: It’s still in the writing stage and composing the music and working with choreographers.

Q: You are married to the Japanese-American film maker Paul Mayeda Berges.  In an intercultural marriage, what’s the food served on the table?

Gurinder Chadha: (Laughs) Everything!  Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean, English, Thai, Vietnamese – we have it all!

Q: So it must be a fun life – it must be like eating out everyday?

Gurinder Chadha: Even my children eat all this.

Q: Speaking of children, you’re the mother of four-year-old twins – how tough is life with them – and how much fun is it?

Gurinder Chadha: Oh, it’s brilliant – brilliant! It’s a shame I can’t be more productive in my work because I enjoy every moment I can with my children. So I don’t like working when they come home and I never work weekends any more – I used to work a lot more before but now I just enjoy the children!

Q: Your kids are named Ronak and Kumiko. One Indian name and one Japanese. Was it some kind of a deal with your husband?

Gurinder Chadha: No, we never had any alternative names!

Q: Finally, as you head out to New York for the Sikh International Film Festival, can you tell me what you like the most about the city?

Gurinder Chadha: Oh, I love the vibrancy, the diversity and the fact that it looks like a movie set! I have some dear cousins and dear friends so I always feel very much at home. I’ve had some wonderful times in New York and I look forward to going there!

(For those who may have been living on Mars and don’t know what ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ is, it  was the highest grossing British-financed, British-distributed film ever in the UK box-office, prior to the success of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.  It was a critical and commercial success internationally, topping the box-office charts in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and South Africa, and winning audience favorite film awards at the Locarno, Sydney and Toronto film festivals.

It received a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy), a BAFTA Nomination for Best British Film, a European Film Academy Nomination for Best Film, and a Writers Guild of America Nomination for Best Original Screenplay.)

Sikh International Film Festival – 2011

The 8th annual Sikh International Film Festival brings in features and documentaries about important issues.

A scene from 'Jagjeet' at the Sikh International Film Festival in New York


The Sikh Art & Film Foundation presents its eighth annual Sikh International Film Festival and inaugural Leadership Summit, October 13‐15, 2011 at the Asia Society and Museum. The panelists at this first-ever summit include Gurinder Chadha, Dr. Mohanbir S. Sawhney, Distinguished Professor, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, and Dr. Gurvendra S. Suri, Founder and CEO, Optimal Solutions Integration, Inc.

Images have power and can capture real stories of real people – a living testimony.  Powerful stories of the Sikh community are being told by the diaspora across the globe, probing important issues. The festival showcases 14 documentary and short films from established and new filmmakers who bring these concerns into the open. Premiere films debuting include Harpeet Kaur’s feature-length documentary A Little Revolution, a poignant tale of the children of farmers who have committed suicide. Canadian Soldiers Sikhs, director David Gray’s chronicle of ten Sikh men in the Canadian army struggling through enlistment, training, and the battlefield. Even short films can convey an important message as shown by the film ‘Let it Out’ – a music video addressing the bullying which happens in schools.

The two day film festival is followed by the Heritage Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on October 15, where Gurinder Chadha will receive an Arts Award for her work. Other Sikh Heritage Awardees are Jaspal Bindra (CEO, Standard Chartered Bank Asia), and Navtej Sarna (author, The Exile; India’s Ambassador to Israel). This year’s Chief Guest is Preneet Kaur, Minister of State for External Affairs, India.

At the Sikh Heritage Gala, winning films in the category of Best Short Film and Best Documentary will be recognized with cash prizes. The Sikh Art & Film Foundation supports the work of filmmakers with cash prizes and screening fees totaling $15,000.  Sukhbir, the Prince of Bhangra, will be performing at the gala.

More details about the Sikh International Film Festival here


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About Author

Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. [email protected] & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!

3 Comments

  1. Hi Lavina:

    Another excellent interview, but why a quickie? When will you do a full blown interview with Ms. Chadha, who has rapidly become our favorite director with her good, clean, feel good movies, even though she primarily makes movies for women, with women in the primary roles…

    We have found her movies to be very interesting, unusual, brilliantly executed, with her keen sense of humor and intelligence that blaze through like beautiful beacons.

    I have particularly enjoyed her special touches such as the “Bole so Nihaal…….” at the start of her movies with a beautiful shot of the Golden Temple. Her latest movie (“It’s a Wonderful Afterlife”) had one of my favorite shabads “Lakh Khushian Patshaiyan, Jinko Satgur Nagar Kare…” . Absolutely brilliant.

    Somehow just that Shabad made the movie very special…

    Now we would like to know when Ms. Chadha will make a movie with a male as the central figure…….. : )

    Certainly, when Lizete overcomes her writer’s block and completes her book of our love story, we will ask Gurinder to direct the movie version…….. : )

    Very glad to hear of the stage version of “Bend It Like Beckham”….should be loads of fun. When may we expect that on Broadway? Will that be a traveling show like “Mamma Mia”?

    Our very best to her.

  2. Lavina Melwani on

    Hi Mukul, this interview was done via phone with Gurinder Chadha while she was still in London, before her NY trip. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to cover the various events in NY but do have several fun interviews I’ve done with her in the past – will post them soon.
    I believe the musical of ‘Bend I’ will first show on London’s West End and then later be shown on Broadway. Stay tuned!

  3. Thanks, Lavina.

    Much to our disappointment, we missed the opportunity of meeting Gurinder a few years ago when a local journalist invited us over while she was in Houston to plug “Bend it like Beckham”.

    Is the musical version going to be a West End Musical version or Bollywood? Either way, I predict it will become an international super hit much like “Mamma Mia”, and run for years.

    Here’s to her continued success…