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All pride, no prejudice

Imagine an Indian taking on an English classic. Gurinder Chaddha's much-awaited Bride and Prejudice will hit the screen shortly



What if Gurinder Chaddha can't get her chapattis right? She has the world eating out of her hand anyway. — Photos: S. Subramanium

THE HOUND is playing the hare. And the woman found lacking neither in words nor in audacity to express them freely is actually quite polite, but full of beans as she talks energetically of Bride and Prejudice, her forthcoming film based on Jane Austen's classic, Pride and Prejudice. Bend It Like Beckham is history, it served to add to the pride of Gurinder Chadha, enjoying a particularly good run at the box office. And the lady who calls herself a British-Asian woman director, cannot stop grinning. From ear to ear. The pearly teeth, the guffaws, the liberties with the spoken word are all there. As is the feeling of happiness. She is the quintessential global woman, as much at home in Southall as Amritsar, or indeed New Delhi's Le Meridien where she takes time out on a whistle stop tour to speak to the media.

One thing is different though. She might make films about aloo-gobi and the like — remember Bend It... ? — she is still ill at ease with chapattis. Something she had promised to learn a couple of years ago when Bend It... was ready for release. "Yes, I still cannot. I am no good at it. I can make the chapatti round, but the dough is so soft that the moment I put it on the tawa, there is a big hole in it. Probably the hole eats it up!"

Hindi version

Never mind. At the moment the world is busy eating off her hand. And everybody seems to be enjoying the sumptuous celluloid fare on offer. Like a proud chef, Gurinder cannot stop talking of her latest creation, Bride and Prejudice. "In some ways it is a typical Hindi film. We made it in English, then people said it is a very Hindi film so we dubbed it. Javed Akhtar did some lyrics, Aishwarya Rai did dubbing and within a couple of weeks or so it was ready. It will be called Balle Balle Amritsar to LA in Hindi. Initially people suggested something like Begum Gayi LA. I did not quite like it."

Talking of liking, Gurinder, who grew up in Southall on a rich diet of Hindi films like Haathi Mere Saathi, Mera Naam Joker, Guide, and Bobby, is keen to see how the audiences like her film. "My film in some parts is a tribute to Raj Kapoor in the projection of street characters. In some way it is like Fiddler on the Roof. Ultimately it is up to the audiences to decide. I am excited at the prospect of going to a down town cinema hall to watch Bride... . I had seen Raja Hindustani in Bombay. I liked the experience. Then I would like to see the film in a multiplex. See how it works."

Well, apparently the film works. All those who have seen it in exclusive private screenings, including the likes of Amitabh Bachchan and Karan Johar, have found it good fun. "They said it was a typical Hindi film. Actually, my work is about Indians from Britain. There are some subtle differences between, say Punjabis from Punjab and Punjabis from Britain. Similarly, there is a class debate in the film. The Americans are shocked to see an Indian family speaking proper English. However, in essence it is a love story and I quite like the mischievousness of taking one of Britain's great traditions and Indianising it. The novel is set in 1790s' England, the film has a contemporary feel."

Changing ideas

The lady who loved Hum Aapke Hain Koun! and credits Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge for "resurrecting Hindi cinema in England" before "films like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham cashed upon it", is no ordinary escapist filmmaker. "As a filmmaker you have to have changed someone's ideas about something by the end of the show. Tell them something about something. My inspiration has always been Manoj Kumar's Purab aur Pashchim. The film told us British Asian something we did not think we were."

All those prejudices are in the past. For the moment there is the pride of Aishwarya Rai-Martin Henderson starrer that has a rich array of Bollywood luminaries like Anu Malik, Javed Akhtar, Santosh Sivan, Saroj Khan, and others involved with it. There is the world premiere to take care of on October 4. And then the Indian show. As for the chapattis, well, they can be taken care of in future.

She ducked the norms of cinema with the success of Bend It Like Beckham. Now, she is ready with the celluloid version of Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice. What is it about?

ZIYA US SALAM

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