By Subhash K Jha
Gurinder Chadha has a lot to be proud of. She claims Shimit Amin’s deeply influential Chak De was “a cleverly disguised variation on my Bend It Like Beckham. In my film the girl wanted to play football. In Chak De they wanted to play hockey.”
Her latest film It’s A Wonderful Afterlife which is a backhanded compliment to the timeless American director Frank Capra, has been selected as the opening film at the exclusive Sundance Film Festival on January 21.
Recalls Gurinder, “My film What’s Cooking had been premiered at Sundance in 2000. So in a way it’s a home-coming, and that too with a film that in many ways takes me back to my warm intimate family values of Bend It Like Beckham.I shot in the same Indian-centric localities of London .”
The robust Punjabi director, whose last film Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging was in the news for its sexual content, says Bend It Like Beckham remains her most beloved film. “Before Bend It, the footballer David Beckham was not quite the mega-star he is now. You’ll be surprised to know how many people would ask who the Beckham in the title was. I think Beckham became a big star afterwards. If I were to make Bend It Like Beckham today it’d be impossible. David Beckham has become too big for his name to be used for a film”
Gurinder is now all set for the release of It’s A Wonderful Afterlife which she says comes close to Beckham in terms of mood temperament and characterization. The film will have a dubbed Hindi version, despite the fact that Gurinder’s Bride and Prejudice was ruined in translation.
“This time I think a Hindi version of It’s a Wonderful Afterlife is required. The film is about ghosts and reincarnation. These themes are hot favourites among Indians. We’re looking for a good title for the Hindi version. Audiences in Hindi may not get the Capra reference in the English title.”
Gurinder had a whale of a time shooting with the amazing Shabana Azmi for It’s a Wonderful Afterlife. “She put on so much weight she was unrecognizable on the streets of London. Often ladies would come up to her and ask, ‘But aren’t you Shabana Azmi?’ I took her to a Punjabi baby- shower to meet all these women, so she’d get a hang of her Punjabi–Londoner character. Shabana is dead-on in the film.”
To add to the complexities Shabana had to talk to ghosts in the film. “No one can see these ghosts, not even Shabana. But she had to pretend that she could. Sometimes in the middle of a shot I’d walk up to her and ask, ‘What are you doing?’ And she’d delight me by retorting, ‘I really don’t know’. Shooting this film was great fun.”
Now Gurinder hopes watching the film would be as entertaining. “I think It’s A Wonderful Afterlife is my best work to date.”