Gurinder Chadha revealed in an In-Conversation at Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival on Saturday, that she had been approached about collaborating on a local version of her hit 2002 hit Bend It Like Beckham during her trip to the festival.
“Are there any Saudi scriptwriters here?” she asked the audience. “I was pitched a Saudi Bend It Like Beckham but I need a Saudi scriptwriter so we can write it together,” she said.
The Kenya-born British filmmaker, whose Indian family moved to the U.K. from East Africa in the 1960s, also speaks Punjabi, but until now all her films have been in the English language.
She talked, however, about her hopes to advance her dreams of making a Punjabi language feature, starring Munna Bhai M.B.B.S Bollywood veteran Sanjay Dutt.
“I have would like to make a film in Punjabi and I have a great idea for a film,” she recounted.
“One of my favorite actors is Sanjay Dutt. I met his sister Priya Dutt and told her that I absolutely love her brother. She told me he loves speaking Punjabi. And I said, ‘That’s it, I am going to make a film with him in Punjabi. I’ve come up with a great idea, now I need a Punjabi scriptwriter, so we can sit down and write it together.”
Ahead of these projects, it was reported by Deadline earlier this week that Chadha has signed to direct an original musical feature from Disney, inspired by a dynamic princess from Indian history.
Chadha did not mention the production in her talk, focusing instead on the journey as a director, having started out as a BBC reporter and then documentary maker.
She explained how her life and worldview had been shaped by the fact that her grandfather’s family had originally hailed from the Indian Punjab district of Jhelum, which became part of Pakistan under the 1947 partition.
The grandfather had moved to Kenya prior to the division, with her parents then deciding to move to the U.K. in the 1960s when Kenya gained its independence
“Growing up in Britain, we were always sort of East African Indians, as opposed to Indians from India, which meant we were twice migrants. And that is an important detail because Indians from India are different from Indians from Kenya,” she said.
The family home she recalled had been a first port of call for many other East African Indians who also later moved to Britain.
“I grew up with this amazing cultural support network, but I was also very British. I remember at school, British people didn’t know how to handle this. They would always look at people like me and go, ‘Oh, poor things. They’re suffering from an identity crisis.”
“I was always from a very young age cognitive of the fact that other people were putting problems on me. Particularly, people who were monocultural and monolingual. They have a hard time looking at people who are multicultural and multilingual because it’s not part of their vernacular, there’s a whole set of assumptions. Britain’s changed a lot since then, now it embraces that.”
These experiences fed her desire to get into filmmaking so she could tell different types of stories.
“All my films are very much about taking that cultural experience of being at the crossroads of different cultures, different generations, but not telling those stories in a problematic way, telling them in a very human way, from my perspective, because I embody all those sides, and so I can talk about the problems, but also celebrate the good stuff,” she said.
“That’s why I think Bend It Like Beckham and other films of mine, have travelled so well around the world, particularly with diasporas, because no one, very few people are articulating that in the world. At least, certainly when I started.”
She recounted how her desire to tell different types of stories had made it difficult to get well-known stars on board her early films, a fact that had led to her working with emerging talents who have since gone on to become big talents.
“I have launched some nice careers. I’ve made stars. Keira Knightley in Bend It Like Beckham. She came in and auditioned. It was her first big film. French actress, Leïla Bekhti. She was in my episode of Paris Je t’aime. She had just started,” she recalled. “The next James Bond, we hope, Aaron Taylor Johnson, who was in my film Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging,” she said.
“I had to fight with Paramount Studios who made that film. I said, ‘I really want to cast this guy. I think he’s huge. He’s going to be a great talent, a big star’. And they were like, Well, no one knows who he is. And I said, ‘I know. But trust me, not yet. And then I cast him,” she continued, adding with a laugh, “And of course, now, if he becomes the next Bond, I will take complete credit.”