Bhaji On The Beach (1993)

(On DVD, December 2005) A charming dramatic comedy from director Gurinder Chadha, (who would later go on to make small gems such as Bend It Like Beckham and Bride & Prejudice), this film studies the life of a few Indian-English women as they make a day trip to Blackpool Beach. The men aren’t far behind, but they’re more like personified problems than actual characters: The real strength of the movie comes as it studies vastly different generations of non-Caucasian women as they relate to England, their own Indian culture and each other. As a comedy, it’s low-octane and leadened by dramatic moments of variable impact. But as a pleasant melodrama, it’s hard to do better than Bhaji On The Beach: Despite a tepid start, it soon cruises along to its own rhythm, and if the schematic nature of the dramatic arc can be a tad too obvious (including a final dramatic moment that seems forced and calculatingly unforgivable), there’s a pleasant flow to the dialogue and relationships. Without too much fuss, this film tackles on weighty issues such as racism, sexism, conjugal violence, cultural incomprehension and the clash of generations. Intimate to a degree that will remind you of its TV drama roots, Bhaji On The Beach is nonetheless a quietly fascinating little film, well-worth tracking down if you were charmed by Bend It Like Beckham.

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