Diff Celebrity Interview: Director Gurinder Chadha

Brand name: Chadha
‘The USP of my films is me.’ So declares, Gurinder Chadha, the director of Bride and Prejudice. Rajeev Nair met her in Dubai for an exclusive chat

On her first visit to Dubai, for the first Dubai International Film Festival, Gurinder Chadha, the director of Bride and Prejudice (still showing at theatres in the UAE), Bend it Like Beckham (to be screened at Diff) and Bhaji on the Beach (which won rave reviews in the Film Festival circuit), watched Lawrence of Arabia. It is one of her all-time favourite films.
Does she want to talk about her own films? “What more is there to talk…I have nothing to say to the press… Bride and Prejudice has been released here and it is a hit. That’s it,” she starts…
And once she sets off, there, flashes the fire. She speaks her mind, mincing no words, hitting hard against critics, panning the word “cross-over,” and asserting that she is NOT an Indian filmmaker. Her films might feature Indian characters, Indian actors, the Indian ethos, but no, Chadha is not an Indian filmmaker. She is British, mind you. Remember it as you watch her films because, she says, her principal viewers are not Indians. They are just a minority.

What do you have to say about the criticism that Bride and Prejudice is too frivolous a film?
I think they all relate it (the film) to Bollywood. I think a lot of people in India don’t like or reflect Bollywood. That is their problem.

Even the Hindi film industry is not very comfortable with the word Bollywood…
Fine, that’s up to them.

But haven’t you pushed the song-dance retinue one associates with “Bollywood” a bit too far in Bride and Prejudice?No…my film is a British film. It doesn’t have Bollywood in its title. It is a British musical.

Many viewers felt that your adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was too filmy, too unreal…
You know, people are watching the film in America and they are not seeing anything Bollywood in it. It reminds them of the MGM musicals…They never heard of Bollywood, they don’t care about Bollywood and when they see the film they see it like one of their own musicals.

So do you think Bride and Prejudice as a film has indeed crossed over?
It was No 1 in South Africa; No. 1 in the UK, No.1 in India… and for it to be No 1, other people go and watch it as much as Indians.

You are repeating Aishwarya Rai in your next film too…
I am just producing that.

But obviously you have a say in her choice…, and is she the USP of Bride and Prejudice?
No, not necessarily. Anupam Kher has just been in America and every where he goes people have just been applauding him. I think the USP of my films is me. That’s what people want to see. In America, people want to see me, my film…

In one of the discussions at Diff, it was remarked on the Indian Diaspora filmmakers, who make their films, invariably, centred on Punjabis? What is your take on it?
First of all you must understand that I am from Britain. I am not from India. Number two, you have to understand what cross-over film is. I don’t know what cross-over film is. You tell me… I am British. My films are made in London. I have a British audience. I have an American audience. An Australian audience. An audience all over the world… Who is crossing over from whom to what? Answer me, what are you saying….

Cross-over simply implies that more non-Indians watch a film with Indian sensibilities…
But my films are British. They come from London. They are English.

So aren’t your films Indian at all?
Not in the way you consider…More non-Indians see my films than Indians. The Indian population that sees my films is very, very small. It has been the way from the very beginning…

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