Director Gurinder Chadha On Shaping Her Successful Career By Celebrating Difference

“People might tell you that you’re the odd one out. Remember you’re not, you too are the mainstream. The world might try to make differences a pejorative thing, but I’ve carved out a whole career by celebrating it,” says the 62-year-old film director, Gurinder Chadha, in her recent candid interview with The Guardian.

Gurinder Chadha was born in Kenya, then a British colony. Her family was part of the Indian diaspora in East Africa. They moved to London when she was two and rented a single bedroom. She recounts being shoved into a metal bed frame by their landlord’s son. Her mother was devastated but couldn’t comfort her. “I still remember the indignity and injustice,” she adds.

For a while, she even refused to eat Indian food and had her chapatis with jam and butter. At age 10, she ran away from home and considered it an “escape” to be more British.

Gurinder considers the 2002 box-office hit ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ she directed a watershed moment. She tells The Guardian that until then, the perception was that Indian girls in the UK were obeying and submissive to strict families, but that wasn’t their experience.

“As an immigrant kid, you realise early on you and your parents live different realities,” she adds, “You can fight and rebel, or accept your parents for who they are, work around them, and get on with it. That’s what we did.”

It took three years to get the sports comedy-drama film green-lit. Everyone told her an Indian girl playing football wouldn’t attract the audience. However, it’s the only film to be released in every country since it debuted 20 years ago. “For people on the margins all over, it was transformative”

Unfortunately, her father died suddenly in 1999, and he never got to see Gurinder’s biggest achievements. This made her unappreciated her success for a long time as her father wasn’t there to share it with. It changed when she became a mother of twins in her late 40s, “Having my children celebrate my work has seen something shift within me. Finally, I’ve started to let myself believe it”