London’s Creative Divas: Gurinder Chadha
The iconic multiple award-winning filmmaker was instrumental in launching the careers of Keira Knightley, Parminder Nagra and Archie Panjabi. This season, Gurinder Chadha comes into the spotlight with her new play, Bend It Like Beckham: The Musical.
The plot of the play, that is inspired by the successful movie of the same name, weaves a story that deals with interracial relationships, equal opportunities, sexual identity, and the empowerment of women. With its world premiere in June, one can definitely expect fresh faces kicking the ball with youthful enthusiasm whilst debating cultural loyalties to captivating music, all aiming to repeat the same phenomenonal success of the movie on London stages.
What made you turn the film into a musical play?
Though I initially resisted the idea, with time I realised the significance of the film, particularly with reference to interracial relations in the UK. Despite the huge presence of the Asian community in London, very little had been done to celebrate who we are. Another determining factor was Billy Elliot the Musical — I was deeply moved by it and loved how it crystallised a particular moment in history. It’s a story of hope, and making dreams come true. Not just one generation pitching tents on this island but the aspirations of their children that subtly changed while growing up here as young Britons. It highlights the importance of give and take and the realisation that nothing ever stands still.
What are the differences between the film and the play?
The play is a totally new British musical that speaks to us of today and where we are now as a nation. It looks at the last three or four decades and the Asian influences — basically Punjabi West London fused with West End musical influences — the ones that I have grown up with. It’s an attempt to highlight the belief that we live in a brilliant nation that is all the better for being culturally diverse. It is not just one community that has created it. We are all different and yet kicking the same ball with the same goals!
What was the process of putting the play together?
It’s the result of four years of collaboration and multiple workshops with musicians, actors, dancers and, of course, footballers. It’s a show for all generations and this is reflected in the newly composed sound by Charles Hart — (his previous work includes plays such as Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love) who is in charge of lyrics and music — and the acclaimed composer Howard Goodall. The pioneer of British bhangra sound, Kuljit Bhamra, has added his influences to the team, and we created a score for all ages. The musical is an East-West fusion of bhangra and joyous melodies. It has a theme of assimilation and how each new generation in an ever-changing world finds itself looking back and yet going forward.