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Bhaji on the Beach (1993)

Courtesy of Channel 4 Television

Main image of Bhaji on the Beach (1993)
DirectorGurinder Chadha
Production CompanyUmbi Films
ProducerNadine Marsh-Edwards
ScriptMeera Syal
 Gurinder Chadha
PhotographyJohn Kenway
EditorOral Ottley
MusicJohn Altman
 Craig Preuss

Cast: Kim Vithana (Ginder); Sarita Khajuria (Hashida); Lalita Ahmed (Asha); Zohra Segal (Pushpa); Renu Kochar (Madhu)

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Gentle comedy about a group of Asian women from Birmingham who set off on a day trip to Blackpool. However it isn't long before the men are in pursuit of their joyriding spouses and girlfriends.

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Bhaji on the Beach was a surprise commercial and critical hit. It garnered numerous international awards, was nominated for a Bafta and won Chadha the Evening Standard Award for 'Newcomer to British Cinema.'

Chadha's earlier documentary I'm British But... (1989) used wry humour to examine notions of identity amongst Asians in far flung parts of the UK. It demonstrated a rare, quirky talent, bold enough to blow away conventional thinking, explore taboo subjects, and allow a wider world into the interior lives of British Asian women.

Bhaji on the Beach is a road movie, a form not particularly popular amongst British directors. On the road are a group of Birmingham-based Asian women, headed for Blackpool. The women are either running away from problems or in search of new possibilities. Hashida, secretly involved with a black boy, has just discovered she is pregnant. Ginder wants out of an unhappy marriage. Asha and Pushpa seek escape from the drudgery of corner-shop life. For each, the trip to Blackpool will be a journey of self-discovery.

The trip is also an opportunity to see their country, while confronting each other's values. The women come together when confronted by white racists, but the generations clash on the issue of traditional values. Hashida's pregnancy first provokes shock then a round of anti-black prejudice from the older women. Ginder is blamed for the collapse of her marriage and urged to return home.

Commitment, duty, honour, sacrifice - all the fossilised values which they have carried around for years are mercilessly questioned. These entrenched attitudes contrast sharply with those of a visiting Bombay relative, all slick slacks and western attire, who seems freer and more modern than the older women in their drab Saris, who cling to the ideas of the India they left behind. The women do begin to loosen up - particularly in a comic scene at a male strip joint. Finally, the appearance of Ginder's husband, and his violent public attack on her, causes a major re-evaluation of values. At the end, new notions of solidarity and sisterhood across the generations emerge as the women make their way home.

Bhaji on the Beach's comprehensive success reflects its ability to deal with complex issues in a simple and conventional narrative. In the process, it opens up, with humanity and warmth, the closed world of Asian women.

Onyekachi Wambu

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Video Clips
1. Introduction (3:59)
2. Off to Blackpool (4:44)
3. The arrival (3:15)
Original poster
Production stills
Chadha, Gurinder (1960-)
Segal, Zohra (1912- )
Syal, Meera (1962-)
Walker, Rudolph (1939-)
Channel 4 Films/Film on Four/FilmFour
Asian-British Cinema
Channel 4 and Film
Female Protagonists
Women and Film