March 2003
Bend it Like Beckham : An Interview with Director Gurinder Chadha

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

Bend it Like Beckham: An Interview with Director Gurinder Chadha

Finding what pleases folks these days and getting them to see a film is very challenging. Blending one’s own background with an appealing subject like sports could have some issues. But for Gurinder Chadha (Bhaji On The Beach, What’s Cooking), who wrote and directed such a tale, the opposite as happened. While there may have been some struggles as far as the development and marketing of her latest film, Bend It Like Beckham, the rewards are paying off. Already a hit overseas, this little film has topped the box office charts in England, South Africa, New Zealand, and is now coming over to the United States. In an interview with, Director Chadha talks about her latest film, Bend It Like Beckham.

WM: What does the title mean?

GC: Well “Bend It Like Beckham” refers to Beckham, David Beckham, who is the Michael Jordan of soccer in England. He has this great skill in that when he kicks a ball, instead of going in a straight line, it can twist and bend into the goal, so he’s famous for bending the ball, which I think is a great metaphor for a lot of us, especially girls. We can see our goal but instead of going straight there, we too have to twist and bend the rules sometimes to get what we want.

WM: What’s the story about?

GC: The story’s about an Indian girl who really, really wants to play soccer but her parents don’t think it’s the right thing for a girl to do and certainly not the right thing for a nice Indian girl to do. In England, soccer is very much a man’s game but because it’s set in West London, where I grew up and is the heart of multicultural communities, the film is set in a world where people move easily from one cultural background to another and it’s not a problem. It’s not seen as a big racial conflict. It’s just the world. People live and breathe diversity and I think that’s why the film has become so popular around the world because most people live their lives like that these days without making big issues of it.

WM: It seems that multicultural films are “in” nowadays. With this film ready to come to the United States after enjoying a successful run overseas, how do you think the fanfare will be?

GC: Well, I wish there more films about people living in these kinds of environment. So far, I know people have like it. I think people like the fact that it’s a real family movie. It’s about families pulling together and getting through it. It’s also comedy and it does make you feel good when you come out. I believe in the U.S at the moment, there’s certainly a need for these kinds of movies that show people who might be from one community but actually you might think they are not like you but when you go in and see them, you see that they are exactly like your own people.

WM: With the success of “Monsoon Wedding” last year, a lot of attention was paid to the Indian community and its cultures. What aspects of that were you looking to add in this film?

GC: Well, what I set out to do was a teen movie. I actually set to do a film about what’s it like to go from being a child to an adult when you really want to do something that everyone’s telling you that you can’t. But it somehow got bigger and bigger and it became a film from the parents’ point of view as well as the kids. Then it became a very affectionate portrait of West London, where I grew up. The film might be read and seen here as an Indian film, but in Great Britain, it’s seen as a British movie and a British hit comedy. In Britain, it’s the most successful British-financed British film ever. It was made that success by the whole of the British community regardless of color or background or whatever. In Britain, a lot of us live in these very mixed environment and British culture take that on board in most case. So when a film like this becomes so successful, it’s because the British people are very comfortable with diversity and diversity in cinema nowadays.

WM: With this month being Woman’s History Month, as a female director, did you face any major challenges while shooting this film?

GC: In making this film, the challenge was really raising the money in the first place. Most people in Britain were like, “Soccer movies don’t work, we don’t want to do, and secondly, girls playing soccer, I can’t anyone interested in seeing that.” Those were the sort of responses we were getting. But for me it was a wonderful opportunity to show women and girls on the screen looking really dynamic and really powerful and really sexy playing this fantastic sport. I knew it would be popular. It was certainly popular with girls and women. As it happens, it’s been popular with everyone. So I think the difficulty is often convincing people who have the finances that your perspective or the female perspective does account for 50% of the population and should be encouraged.

WM: Did you get a chance to speak to David Beckham prior to using his surname as part of the title?

GC: Well, David Beckham is married to Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham), and so we got both of their permissions to use their surname. We had sent the script to their people and they saw that we weren’t being derogatory and so they said “Fine, go ahead with it”. But also David Beckham is a big supporter of woman’s soccer. He feels if more women played then it would be more like a family sport. More families would come out and it would be less aggressive.

WM: Did you talk to the two lead actresses about getting in shape for the role?

GC: I chose them for their acting skills, so I knew they couldn’t play soccer. I put them into 3 months solid football training and they had a coach and everyday they would in and train. They worked really hard at it. Keira, who plays Jules, got concussions a few times. Parminder really damaged her toes and was too scared to the ball in case she broke one. They really had to go through the pain barrier like other athletes in order to excel. It’s only when I said “We could always use doubles, don’t worry about it”, when the two of them said, “No way! We’re definitely are going to go for it.” And they did. But all the other girls in the film play for various London clubs except one, Shaznay Lewis. She’s part of the music band The All-Saints, which is really a popular band.

WM: How did you weave all the subplots in the film without it being disjointed?

GC: What I set out to do was something very truthful about my own upbringing and my own family and my own friends and the world around me. In that sense, there are a lot of things we deal with. When you’re Indian or of color, you just don’t be that for the day. We live all these things at the same time. There’s more to our lives than just being Indian. There’s more to our lives that just race and culture. We are a part of everything else. We watch soap operas. We go to restaurants. We’re part of the rest of society. So, in the film, it just deals with what an ordinary family would be going through when they have kids at that age wanting to do something different. But it just so happens that they are an Indian family, so some of that stuff comes into it. And it might seem complex, but if you remember back to when you were a child becoming an adult, life was really complicated. Especially if you wanted to do something that your mom and dad didn’t want you to do. So I hope that everything in the film is very organic as it comes up.

WM: After people leave the theater after watching this film, and assuming they enjoyed it, what message do you want them to walk away with?

GC: That life is full of challenges to get over, but when you get over them, life is really sweet.

WM: What are you working on next?

GC: I’m working on a musical. I’m taking a book that I did at school, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and I’m turning it into a Bollywood musical, which sort of like these big crazy Indian musicals, but it’s a British Bollywood musical. It’s sort of like Bollywood meets “West Side Story”, or Bollywood meets “Fiddler on the Roof”.

WM: Thanks

GC: Thank You. I just want say that if you want to enjoy the music, the soundtrack is available now in stores and distributed by Milan Records.