Director Gurinder Chadha's landmark debut feature is the first to be helmed by a British Asian woman. The story concerns a day-trip to Blackpool by a disparate group of Indian women from the Saheli Asian Women's Group. The group includes battered wife Ginder (Kim Vithana), refusing to stand by her man (much to the chagrin of her elders), unmarried teenage mum-to-be Hashida (Sarita Khajura), shunned by the same elders for her relationship with a black man, and respectable shop assistant Asha (Lalita Ahmed), who escapes into a fantasy world from her drab day-to-day existence when she is charmed by a local playboy thesp. Also along for the day are a middle-class Bombay woman of tasteless glamour and a couple of boy-crazy teenage girls.
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
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.