Bhaji on the Beach: Gurinder Chadha’s Dramedy of Generational Conflicts

Bhaji on the Beach is a most impressive feature debut by a woman director, Gurinder Chadha, a serio-comedy that concerns ethnic and generational conflicts.

Early on in the story, Simi (Shaheen Khan), a community-center organizer proclaims, “This is your day–have a female fun time!” She then goes on to orchestrate a day trip of nine Asian immigrants, who live in Birmingham, to the British seaside resort Blackpool. The trip is meant to raise consciousness, sort of a feminist sisterhood, among a diverse group of women, each facing a problem or moral dilemma. Hashida (Sarita Khajuria), for example, has to deal with the fact that she is pregnant by her black boyfriend, and Ginder (Kim Vithana), a young mother, must endure the contempt of the older women because she has left her husband.

Always funny and in many moments irreverent and savvy, the film also contains lurid fantasies of Asha (Lalita Ahmed), which are shot in the style of Indian musicals, and the touching comic flirtation of two teenage sisters as they uncover their own racial anxieties. At the end of the film, you get a portrait of different kinds of conflicts that are only temporarily resolved.

Bhaji on the Beach is uneven, but is always warm and charming. And chances are that you have never seen such characters on screen–certainly not in American movies.