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Bhaji on the Beach Review

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A group of Asian women descend on Blackpool for a day out where they begin to realise they have more in common than it first appears. Considering the group consists of bitter old women, gaudy middle aged ladies and hormonal teenagers is quite an achievement.

★★★★★

Modest in budget but ambitious in scope, this lively ensemble piece has the Saheli Asian Women's group hitting Blackpool in their rickety old minibus for a day out, with director Chadha exploring the tensions in the lives of a group of carefully differentiated female characters. This is no right-on fantasy of idealised Asian women, however, with Chadha instead giving us warm but honest thumbnail sketches of, among others, doddery unreconstructed oldsters with unrefined prejudices, a middle-aged woman of tasteless glamour, and two boy-mad teenagers.

Contrasting the general egg-and-chips English realism with intriguing fantasy sequences, Chadha lifts the piece some way from its workaday premise, yet her main method of generating dramatic sparks and laughs, by bringing cultures into head-on collisions — such as when the oldsters watch a male strip show at a nightclub — is too obvious to really engage. Indeed, it's with the introduction of male characters that the film really lets itself down. Chadha's men are stereotypes. Eager to get his wife Ginder (Vithana) and son back, violent father Ranjit and his two brothers track the women down leading to the film's climax, a rather hysterical tug-of-love stand-off — a bargie, if you will — on the beach in which Ranjit behaves true to his stereotype.

Not a bad film, this is, however, too heavily steeped in that tradition of British filmmaking that says cinema is a place where minority issues should be off­loaded, not a majority entertained.

Before the arrival of Goodness Gracious Me, Meet the Kumars and the like, Meera Syal wrote screenplays about her Indian influences. Bhaji on the Beach, was not a good indicator of what was to come. Sadly the story was too concerned with making everyone overcome their differences and get along instead of keeping the viewer entertained.

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