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The inspiration behind Gurinder Chadha's' films




Gurinder Chadha has directed films such as 'Bend It Like Beckham' and 'Viceroy's House'.

Eight years ago, Gurinder Chadha, visited her ancestral home near Jhelum in Pakistan, not knowing that the experience would lead to her making the film Viceroy’s House.

Viceroy’s House—released in cinemas across Britain in 2017—focused on the partition of India in 1947 when the British announced they will be leaving India and subsequently divided it along religious lines into two states: India and Pakistan.

Viewers of Viceroy’s House thanked Chadha for making such a beautiful and heart-warming film that was a visual treat.

Suneeta KD commented on the film on Chadha’s Facebook page: “The subject of Viceroy’s House is a very sensitive and politically charged one, where an estimated 14-15 million people were displaced and a further estimate of between 1-2 million murdered in horrific violence is a thoughtfully told story. The director of this film has made a film that captivates and stirs the soul. Thank you, Gurinder Chadha for making this beautiful film.”

Another fan Harinder Kang wrote: “This film enables the audience to go on a moving historical journey about partition, in an accessible way. The only tears we shed were compassionate and for the magnitude of the 14 million people being displaced and a million lives lost. The lighter moments of the film do not detract from the political and humanitarian catastrophe that unfolds. Plenty to digest and a rare opportunity to see a historical drama about partition with a fabulous cast.”

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Partition of the subcontinent of India displaced fifteen million people and killed more than a million (estimated figures). In August 1947 after three hundred years in India the British left and the subcontinent became divided on two bases - Muslim majority Pakistan (then east and west now east is known as Bangladesh) and Hindu Majority India. Known as the greatest migration in history. Some crossed borders and never made it, some crossed borders consuming hate, some crossed borders breathing in so much trauma - that still taking about partition makes eyes wet and body numb. Today is world refugee day. My Nanaji crossed the border of wagah not knowing he would never see his father again or his massi that looked after him after his mother passed away. Partition for me means a lot because we lost so much during this and what the result was hate - hate between communities that once co existed together. Across the world border lines are filled with blood of innocents. Border lines aren’t just lines but are lines of souls, lines of dead, lines of innocents crying and screaming ... I hope we can perhaps can get over our differences and live in peace and harmony- one day....? #worldrefugeeday #partitionofindia #1947

A post shared by Rupinder Kaur (@rupinderkw_) on

Gurinder Chadha was born in Kenya and came to Britain with her parents in 1961. She grew up in Southall, West London and studied Development Studies at the University of East Anglia.

She started out working at BBC Radio West Midlands in Birmingham and soon realised that telling your own stories in the newsroom could be a battle in itself.

“I was fortunate to do a Directing scheme at the British Film Institute which led to me finding my cinematic voice with films like Bhaji on the Beach, Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice,” she said talking to the BBC last year.

Chadha’s first directorial venture was I'm British But..., a documentary made for Channel 4 and the BFI in 1989. The film uses the spectacle of Bhangra music to explore topics of individuality and belonging among young British-born Asians.

Growing up in the diverse environment of London under the shadow of partition, Chadha never had an ancestral homeland. But, she had a happy childhood in London; she came here when she was a baby with her parents and did not know anything else about her hometown unlike other people from the Indian subcontinent. For her, her home was Pakistan, and India and Pakistan had been at war for three times since partition, so it was like a negative space for her.

Wow it’s a great place that lives up to all the hype! #tajmahal #india

A post shared by Gurinder Chadha, OBE (@gurinder.chadha) on

Chadha appeared on an episode on BBC One’s programme Who Do You Think You Are? 11 years ago and ended up going to her ancestral homeland for the first time during filming.

Chadha was quite reticent about going to Pakistan initially, as she told WFTV CEO Kate Kinninmont, MBE in an interview in March last year.

“I was quite belligerent and I say that in the programme that I refuse to call this (my homeland), where I am, Pakistan because to me it’s pre-partitioned India and that’s how it relates to me.

"So that’s how I start and then, in the programme, I get there to the town where my grandfather had built a big house, and everybody comes out and say, ‘Welcome, welcome, you’re our daughter, we’re so happy you’ve come’. They throw flower petals at me, they give me a shawl and they say, ‘We’ll help you, whatever you need’.”

She was then at her grandfather’s house which her grandmother had left in 1947 with her five children. There was a whole bunch of other families who themselves had been refugees from India. So, it was at that moment that the reality of partition hit home for Chadha, she said: “It was at that point that I said I wanted to do something about partition, about how it affected ordinary people.”

Viceroy’s House is the story of Gurinder’s life. It came out on the 70th anniversary of India’s independence. 

She started working on the film eight years ago, but it got delayed, and now this was the year (2017) where India, Pakistan and Britain were all talking about the British Raj.

The Last Viceroy #ViceroysHouse #AttentionToDetail #Casting

A post shared by Gurinder Chadha, OBE (@gurinder.chadha) on

In his review of the film published in the Guardian, Mark Kermode wrote: “Viceroy’s House is Chadha’s heartfelt and very personal drama about the traumas of partition, which strives to dramatise the epochal events of 1947 for the widest possible audience, including those who know nothing of the independence of India or the creation of Pakistan.”

And 70 years on... 71 years this year. Partition in case anyone forgot. Safe to say the partition of the subcontinent of India was Panjab and Bengal (with Kashmir still suffering). The two suffered the most horrific and tragically. Once upon a time so many different cultures and religions lived together... Indians, Pakistanis and Bengalis all once lived together and today there’s a lot of hate between us communities. Religion and cultural divisions really got between us all because of borders placed. Along with dirty politics ??. Radcliffe line is filled with the blood of our ancestors... time has passed on and Ive had people say to me it doesn’t even matter to you / affect you, as your born and living in England (which is pretty ironic) but how can I not write about partition, when it’s affects are still alive. We are still suffering with the trauma of partition and displacement. Now if we all worked together with peace and respect there would not be a place like either India/ Pakistan/ Bangladesh. I think my generation are becoming more awake and reading upon our histories and common histories and we are trying to create spaces for love and respect I’ve seen examples of poetry doing this and it’s beautiful @daakvaak @therhymerepublic & in the diaspora we got some cool things going on too. Anyways I hope we recognise each other as souls, past religion and culture and nationality as we once all went back same way. Remembering some words said by the poet Sahir Ludhianvi- “Tu Hindu banega, na Musalman banega, Insaan ki aulaad hai, insaan banega.” ??#partitionofindia #India #Pakistan #Bangladesh #Panjab #Bengal

A post shared by Rupinder Kaur (@rupinderkw_) on

On her reasons as to why Chadha chose to make a drama - this huge, enormous, epic film, she said:

“Well, my starting point was always ‘Because I’m the only one’. I mean, 25 years ago I made Bhaji on the Beach (a 1993 British comedy-drama about the tensions of the generation gap torn between tradition and modernism) and I was the first Asian woman to make a feature film in Britain, and 25 years later I’m still the only Asian woman making feature films in Britain.”


A post shared by Gurinder Chadha, OBE (@gurinder.chadha) on

One of Chadha's biggest inspirations when crafting the film, was the film Gandhi (released in 1982).

#SeventhArtBPM #BestPictureMonday 'Gandhi' (1982) directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Ben Kingsley. The tremendous film about the life of Gandhi and his biggest accomplishments including his legacy of freeing India from the British Empire. Kingsley would step up to be one of the greats with his Oscar winning, heart grabbing, spectacular interpretation. . "They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me, then they will have my dead body. Not my obedience!" ? . ———————————————————————— . #SeventhArtLDMP #LunesDeMejorPelicula 'Gandhi' (1982) dirigida por Richard Attenborough y protagonizada por Ben Kingsley. El tremendo filme sobre la vida de Gandhi y sus mayores logros incluyendo su legado de liberar a India del Imperio Británico. Kingsley pasaría a ser uno de los grandes con su espectacular interpretación agarra corazones y ganadora del Oscar. . "Pueden torturar mi cuerpo, romper mis huesos, hasta matarme, entonces tendrían mi cuerpo muerto. ¡No mi obediencia!" ? #Gandhi #GandhiMovie #GandhiFilm #RichardAttenborough #Attenborough #BenKingsley #1982 #BestPicture #TheOscars #Oscars #Oscar #Monday #cine #cinema #movie #movies #películas #film #films #filmmaking #SéptimoArte #SeventhArt #SeventhArtStudio

A post shared by Seventh Art Studio® (@seventh.art) on

She wanted to do something in the same vein, from a British Asian perspective. And in choosing that format she was able to follow the important people as she wanted to tell the story through, but at the same time could focus on their servants and tell the story of ordinary people like her grandmother.

On assembling a fantastic cast, she says:  

“Everybody has a link, really, with the story or with India. With Gillian Armstrong, I had sent Gillian the script because I thought she looked like Edwina (Lady Mountbatten) in many ways and she’s a fantastic actress, I always wanted to work with her.” 

Bend It Like Beckham reappeared as a musical in 2015, when Chadha had famously posted a selfie with Zayn Malik on Twitter, saying the former One Direction star was coming to see it.

It was Chadha’s first stage production and, she had told Corinne Jones of the Guardian with excitement: “It has been the most creatively satisfying thing I’ve ever done. I wanted to be part of the fantastic West End tradition, and just open it up a bit to bring in that part of West London to the West End.”

Chadha lives in London with her husband, Paul Mayeda Berges and two children. She has received several Honorary Doctorates from British universities and was awarded an O.B.E. in the 2006 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her services to the British film industry.

To learn more about Gurinder Chadha, visit www.benditnetworks.com.