Gurinder Chadha has had a long career directing very successful films since her breakthrough with 1994’s Bhaji on the Beach.
In an industry that is notoriously slanted to male and middle class she has managed to maintain a steady career giving opportunities to Indian actors to have choice parts that rarely come to those working in movies and television (see Eastenders and Coronation street for racial stereotyping). While riding the Asian wave with such artists as Talvin Singh and the Goodness Gracious team there is still under representation in the media and a lack of diversity to bring a new generation of artists. Hit films like Bend it Like Beckham and It’s a Wonderful Afterlife bring to the mainstream Indian culture and mannerisms with all their eccentricities and are funny but Ms Chadha has been treading the same water for the last few films which gives it a samey albeit funny feel. You could say the same about Woody Allen doing the same thing but he is now a poor imitation of himself with a dire catalogue of his last few releases. Her next film should have Indian characters interacting with the British with no self-conscious regard to race, just a bold strong story whether it is drama or comedy. American cinema and television have achieved great success in stories that go beyond gender and race in the strong line-up of television dramas. Getting typecast for these kind of films is not good for the British industry as other Asians who are trying to make it will still be ghettoised and moving into another genre shows diversity and broadening of directorial talents and lets the industry know that diversity can also be a talent thing.
Take Guy Ritchie’s example, he did cockernee geezer movies to great success and tried to move away with the Madonna film to utter derision and fell back to making cockernee. He finally broke free by making the successful Sherlock Holmes that takes him to a bigger stage. Movies and Television still lacks real diversity and shows a stereotypical view of Indian culture and the clout she currently has can get more integrated scripts made. She led the way with Bhaji on the Beach and she can do it again with a new direction. Another example is Spike Lee who was typically typecast as the race relations filmmaker with his angry movies and has since moved/ diversified on to hits such as the Edward Norton film 25th Hour. Admittedly Gurinder Chadha was apparently offered and nearly did the feature film of Dallas which would have been very good for her career. There is still a barrier that keeps minority talent from breaking through and there must be a way to level the playing field.