Gurinder Chadha says ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ was about racism at RSIFF 2022

JEDDAH: British Indian filmmaker Gurinder Chadha — known largely for her commercial, feel-good films — took part in an hour-long ‘In Conversation’ panel at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah, where she talked about one of her most popular early films, “Bend It Like Beckham.”

The sports comedy film, released in 2002, starred Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra in lead roles.

“It’s about racism,” the director said of the film. “It’s dressed up as a comedy but it’s actually about parents protecting children from racism. But if I had gone out and said this was a film about racism, it would have never got financed, never!”

She also bemoaned the fact that there aren’t more successful  British Indian filmmakers in the industry. 

When asked if she suffered from tokenism in the U.K. as a British Indian director, Chadha said: “I think the opposite because I’ve been the only one for many years. I think it’s a shameful statistic and people are trying to change that. I was the first Indian woman to make a feature in Britain [1994’s ‘Bhaji on the Beach’] and, until this day, there are only one or two [British-Indian directors in Britain]. I’m a reminder of the fact that things need to change.”

Speaking about the experience of visiting Saudi Arabia, she said: “In Britain, we have a different view of what Saudi Arabia is. Everything here is geared towards families, everything is about family life and kids, and you don’t get those impressions in Britain.

“It’s a country that’s changing. For some people, it’s changing too fast, and for some people, it’s not changing enough. I’m really interested in those discussions right now. The work that I do is very much focused on the fact that people will change,” continued the filmmaker. “It’s interesting to see those discussions in Saudi cinema, and to see how people negotiate change. I hope it’s not seen as a negative thing.”