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Q & A with Gurinder Chadha


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Director Gurindha Chadha is famous for the likes of Bend It Like Beckham, Bride and Prejudice and Angus, Thongs and Snogging.

Her new film, It's A Wonderful Afterlife hits NZ cinemas on August 26th.

1) Where did you get the idea for the film from?
I was watching the wedding scene from my film Bend It Like Beckham and remembering how much fun it was filming that scene with all my relatives in it.  I thought wouldn't it be great to take another Indian wedding scene and turn it into the prom scene from Carrie.  The story, the ghosts, the reincarnation and the exploding curry took off from there.

2) The very first scene with the exploding stomach seems to be an homage to the infamous Monty Python scene - was that intentional?
It was my homage to Alien! But I can see how you would make the Monty Python connection too.  They are also mad Brits I am very happy to be associated with!

3) Bollywood Homage seems to be the theme towards the end of the film - are there any other film makers or moments that you would like to pay tribute to in upcoming films?
I grew up on a mix of British social realist dramas, American musicals and Bollywood films so they are all reflected in my films.  With each film I make I try to explore a genre and push it beyond its expectations.  I'm looking forward to making more comedies, a children's adventure series across India and a historical drama about the Partition of India in 1947.

4) The cast seemed like a dream cast to pull together - did you always have those people in mind?
I had great fun casting this film.  I was always thinking of casting Shabana Azmi, she's the Meryl Streep of India and I've admired her for many years.  I also love Sally Hawkins, Jimi Mistry, Mark Addy and Ray Panthaki, as well as all the actors I worked with previously on 'Beckham' and 'Bhaji on the Beach'.  I'd seen Sendhil Ramamurthy in 'Heroes' and knew he would be gorgeous on the big screen and Goldy Notay I had been watching in theatre for many years.  This is her first film and I knew she was a great talent that I could launch in the same way I did Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley in Beckham and Aaron Johnson in Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. 
 
5) What were the challenges of making this film?
The trickiest thing was shooting all the scenes with the spirits, because it's only Mrs Sethi that can see them.  I also wanted to get the balance right of the story so you understood why the murderer was doing what they were doing. The big wedding scene was tough in a different way because by day four of shooting it, the smell of exploding curry became unbearable!

6) At the end of the day, this is really about a mother's love and family - be it in extreme terms or otherwise - is this the one message you'd want people to take from it?
Absolutely.  That and to try and live your life as best you can so you can come back and improve on it in the next life!

7) Sanjeev Bhaskar gets the lion share of the comedy lines in the film - as he's a well known UK comedian, how much of it did he contribute to the script - and how often did he veer off it?
Sanjeev is hilarious.  I've known him for years and knew he would have just the right comic timing for Curry Man.  He wasn't involved in the script but he did occasionally ad-lib something funny. 

8) Did you find it a challenge following Bhaji on the Beach, Bride and Prejudice and the phenomenally successful Bend It Like Beckham?
I try to take each film and explore a genre and characters in an unexpected way.  When I started out as a filmmaker my goal was to put British Asians on the big screen in all of our complexity and that is still what inspires me now.

9) Were you bothered by the critical reaction to the film?
Critics usually tell you more about the film they wanted you to make than the film you actually made.  My films have always had critical reactions which run the gamut from, 'a comic masterpiece' to 'what was she thinking?'.  The most important thing for me is that audiences enjoy my films.  I've seen It's A Wonderful Afterlife with audiences in the UK, India and the States and I know they've had a great night out watching the film.

10) Has the global recession made it harder for filmmakers to get projects off the ground in the first place?
The global recession has made it harder for all businesses and getting films made is always a perplexing balancing act.  I'm fortunate that my films are seen all over the world so it means I have different options for financing films because they appeal to different global audiences.

11) What's next for you?
I'm doing a big historical film about Indian Independence through the eyes of a British Punjabi woman.  It uncovers how and why India was partitioned when the British transferred power.  It will be an emotional epic that will certainly ruffle some feathers.  I've been inspired writing the script and feel the spirit of David Lean is looking over my shoulder and rooting me on!

12) Who would be your dream cast to work with?
Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Shah Rukh Khan - there are so many great actors around the world I would love to work with - better get back to writing those scripts!


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