17 March 2013

Bhaji on the Beach

I picked this one up somewhat randomly at my local video rental (aka, the school library) - it's the same director (Gurinder Chadha) as made Bend it Like Beckham, which I love, and looked to be a similarly rollicking comedy about South Asians living in England. And it is, but it's marred by a bit more earnestness. A large group of women is going on a day trip to the sea shore. Each of them becomes emblematic of a set of Issues confronting Indian women living in Britain; whether it is how to maintain tradition, how to adapt to a new culture, racism, inter-racial dating, children out of wedlock, divorce, etc. They aren't flat characters, fortunately, but it does make the movie rather insistently about Social Problems. It illuminates them effectively, and it is overall a pretty poignant set of stories. But you don't end up feeling like wow! What a great movie!

Actually, at the end I felt a bit heart-sick. While the film does try to end on a cheerful note, it climaxes with this terrifying scene of domestic abuse that reveals the persistent sexism that still imprisons many women in this culture, and while this one case seems to resolve itself, you know that you're seeing a real problem that continues to affect many women even today. And it fills you - or at least me - with both grief and rage.

Overall, it's a pleasant and competent film (I think I felt the same way about Bride and Prejudice, one of her later films), but definitely doesn't live up to Beckham. I certainly wouldn't mind watching more of her movies though - imdb has a nice long list of them, most of which I've never heard of!

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