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Gurinder Chadha: Why I made Bend It Like Beckham

'So much has changed – the women’s game is on TV now. You would never have that back then.'

19 November, 2021 — By Gurinder Chadha

Gurinder Chadha at a Camden Council event

I WAS living with a friend in Camden when I wrote Bend it Like Beckham, in a small top floor student flat at 15 Mornington Crescent.

I was working as a journalist on the radio in Birmingham at the time, I used to commute up there on Mondays and Thursdays.

The inspiration for the film came from an England football match I saw on TV: I saw Ian Wright on the pitch with a Union Jack. I thought things had changed, football was changing.

Something felt different and I always liked bringing opposites together.

I thought football with David Beckham and an Indian girl, they were two worlds that are separate.

I thought the film would do well but I never expected that 20 years on it would be so cherished and loved all over the world. I didn’t think it would become a girl power classic.

Recently in America, every single one of the soccer team that were champions said they got into football because of the film.

And so much has changed here too. The women’s game is on TV now. You would never have that back then.

There has been a lot of progress, also with racism.

We are openly talking about it now. The recent European Championships, with the shambles after the penalty shoot out. The vitriol the three black players got after that was terrible.

But what was amazing was the way the country and so many people defended them, and were ashamed of that reaction.

The response to the defacing of the Marcus Rashford mural, that was a heart-warming moment.

Back when I made the film, David Beckham was a different kettle of fish. He was a young player at Man United living the dream.

He was more famous for having a Spice Girl as a girlfriend. We chose him because he was really cool and doing adverts for Calvin Klein and had become a gay icon.

In the US no one really knew him. When I did interview with a journalist from Washington Post he asked me: “Why is ‘Beckmen’ in the title? Who is this Beckmen?”

I have had a few other films since then. My last, Blinded by the Light, with Bruce Springsteen, broke records at Sundance.

It’s about a boy growing up in Luton in the 1980s with the parental pressure and the backdrop of the National Front. It’s about building bridges.

But the favourite film I made is Viceroy’s House.  It’s about the end of British rule in India and partition.

It was very personal, inspired by my grandparents.  It’s a good looking film, well-accomplished and big. I had 1,000 extras at one point.

My other favourite film is Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.

My son the other day showed me how people take scenes from that and reenact them on TikTok.

It’s the olive scene they do — when the character Georgia is dressed as an olive at a party Everyone comes quite sexy, and she comes looking quite dumpy. It’s for the girls and laughs.

• Gurinder Chadha is an award-winning film director and writer

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