Bend it Like Beckham (2002/3) is a romantic comedy written, directed and produced by Gurinder Chadha, a Kenya-born British film maker who grew up India. Director Chadha’s films often reflect on her complex background. Unlike many comedies, Bend it Like Beckham is filled with plenty of important themes. One of them addresses the importance of cultural integration.
Jesminder Bhamra, like the director, is British-Asian. Just like Director Chadha had refused to take traditional Punjabi dancing lessons and watch Bollywood films as a child, Jesminder unintentionally rebels when trying to integrate cultures. Jesminder’s traditional Sikh parents want her to be ‘good’ by completing university and marrying an Indian man. However, due to local influences, Jesminder dreams of playing football professionally. The film explores how Jesminder finds a way to integrate her parents wants (Indian culture) with her own desires (British culture).
Brought up in Britain, Jesminder and her sister are heavily influenced by the British culture. Jesminder has changed her name to Jess, a name she only uses when away from family. Similarly, her sister’s name (Pinky) is obviously not Indian. Pinky has also adopted a British accent as well as a vocabulary of British slang. Both Jess and her sister’s behaviours display common traits of British people. For example, Pinky can always be seen using British slang. Her use of the tag ‘innit’ instead of ‘isn’t it’ and insult, ‘you silly cow!’ clearly reflect the influence. Cows are regarded as sacred in the Indian culture hence her use of ‘cow’ to insult explains her gradual deviation from Sikh traditions. However, the sisters still use certain Indian terms such as ‘Gorah’ which refers to a white person. Director Chadha’s use of dialogue allows viewers to observe how Jess incorporates British slang with Indian terms. The dialogues show the importance of integration but a balance must be found so we do not abandon the values which we grew up...
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