Bhaji on the Beach
is the directorial debut of Gurinda Chadha, which--like her next film, What's Cooking
--features women as the central characters and seems to involve food at every turn. It's an ensemble piece, which takes a while to establish the characters' relationships with each other. But eventually the focus of the film--based on a story by Meera Syal--gets distilled to a group of women taken on a day trip to Blackpool by a progressive thinking "sister". The skies are suitably grey as they arrive in the English resort town, with the amusement arcades, takeaways and shop fronts looking tacky and run down. There's Ginder (Kim Vithana), who has run away from her violent husband, Hashida (Sarita Khajuria), who has a major decision to make and conservative aunties Asha (Lalita Ahmed) and Pushpa (Zohra Sehgal), not to mention youngsters Ladhu (Nisha K Nayar) and Madhu (Renu Kochar) who are just along for the excitement. As the day wears on, tension mounts between the different generations as secrets come out into the open. It matters little that the plot feels a touch contrived--particularly the convergence of significant characters towards the end--as there's a lot of energy in the performances. The result is a bit rough around the edges, but there's a lot to amuse here, not least in the colourful nod to Bollywood contained in Asha's many dream sequences. --Emma Perry
A day trip to Blackpool to see the lights, a harmless break from the routine for a mini-bus full of women from the Asian’s Women’s Centre. It all seems innocent enough but as the mini-bus trundles along to a Punjabi rendition of Cliff Richard’s “Summer Holiday” problems quickly become apparent. Ginder is fleeing her violent husband with her 5 year old son. Hashida is eighteen, about to start medical school, and has just discovered that she is pregnant by her black boyfriend. Teenage sisters Madhu and Ladhu, with no parent in sight, are on the rampage…for a man or perhaps a boy! Asha is to discover that there is life and indeed romance beyond the confines of the shop counter. And the judgemental Pushpa faces her day of reckoning when she encounters some male strippers. By the end of the day a good deal more has been illuminated than just a stick of rock and a kiss-me-quick hat!