I wanted to tell Gurinder Chadha that she is to me what Springsteen is to Javed in her film Blinded by the Light (releasing August 16, 2019). Larger than life. Awe-inspiring. Authentic. Raw. That her 1993 film Bhaji on the Beach blew my mind!
But when my icon spoke, I merely managed to squeak out a “such an honor, Gurinder.” No need to gush like a star-struck fan, I thought. And when I asked Gurinder Chadha questions, her replies were honest and amazing, just like her.
“We have seen difficult times before.” Gurinder Chadha’s film is a message of hope and the power of music to uplift and inspire. It is simultaneously a searing critique of neo-Nazi white supremacy.
I had three questions for her:
1. Your film comes at a particularly difficult and divisive time in the USA. The image of the Pakistani family scrubbing “Go Back” graffiti from their walls (and worse) in your film comes to mind. Recently, the President of the United States said “go back to your country’ and started a ‘send her back’ chant for a duly elected US Senator called Omar Ilhan. Comments?
2. You have been unafraid to discuss issues within the South Asian community, whether domestic violence or our own racism towards blacks (for instance in Bhaji on the Beach). When Javed writes about the mosque in The Herald, his father criticizes his actions and tells him to essentially keep his head down. Any comments on the pressure for ethnic artists and writers to show our community in a positive light?
3. A scene from the film about a National Front rally seems hauntingly like Charlottesville, where neo-Nazis and white supremacists were emboldened to march. The protagonist, Javed, has white allies — his friend, the teacher, or the principal, or the newspaper colleague at The Herald… and the white adversaries — the National Front, the skinheads, Margaret Thatcher… How can we strengthen our allies and resist our adversaries?
Her answers blew me away! (audio below)
Gurinder had a request: “go see my film!”
Geetika Pathania Jain is Culture and Media Editor at India Currents.
Photo credits for film stills: Nick Wall