[British Asian films] have provided an authentic voice for all British Asians living here today.
British Asian films are known for their raw, witty and unglamorous take on life. They combine the dryness of British humour with the spiciness of Asian culture.
They have the ability to comment on all aspects of society that are prevalent today.
These films introduce a multitude of talents from all continents in all areas of film making. From the likes of directors and writers, to musicians and actors.
DESIblitz takes a chronological look at the top 10 British Asian films from the last twenty years.
Bhaji on the Beach (1993)
Bhaji on the Beach was a surprise 1993 commercial and critical hit. A comedy about a trip to the beach by a group of British Asian woman, the film was directed by Gurinder Chadha and written by Meera Syal.
The film comments on the huge generation gap existing in this group of women. In South Asia, the word bhaji means stir-fry curry while in Urdu it means ‘older sister’.
The film was an international success that won several awards including a BAFTA for Syal’s script and screenplay.
East is East (1999)
East is East is a comedy drama based on a Punjabi family in the 1970s based in Salford. It is arguably one of the first hits to have established British Asian cinema as a true contender across the world.
Released in 1999 and directed by Damien O’Donnell, the film touches upon the controversial topic of arranged marriages and traditional families.
Based on award-winning actor and playwright, Ayub Khan-Din’s play of the same name, it made £2.5 million at the box office. Bollywood actor, Om Puri leads the cast in his role as father Zahir George Khan with British actress Linda Bassett playing his wife.
Anita and Me (2002)
Released in 2002, Anita and Me was directed by Metin Huseyin, a British television and film director of Turkish origin.
The film is a comedy based on the true-life experience shared by actress and writer Meera Syal about growing up in the town of Essington in Staffordshire.
The story follows an Asian family who move to the rural countryside where they experience a cultural clash between their eastern origins and the ‘white’ Westerners.
It deals with the delicate topic of racism from members from white supremist groups in the 1970’s. The film earned £1.7 million in its first week of release.
Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
Possibly the most successful British Asian film before Slumdog Millionaire, Bend it Like Beckham earned an impressive $76 million from a budget of only £6 million.
Bend it Like Beckham is a comedy directed by Chada and is based on a British Asian teenager growing up in a small UK town.
Jess comes from an orthodox Punjabi family and is obsessed with David Beckham and football.
Ambitiously scripted in English, Punjabi, German and Hindi, the film gave actress Parminder Nagra her first break and actress Keira Knightly widespread recognition.
Other cast members includes Archie Panjabi, Ameet Chana and Preeya Khalidas and R&B singer Shaznay Lewis.
Bride and Prejudice (2004)
Bride and Prejudice directed by Chada is a romantic musical remake of Jane Austen’s classic, Pride and Prejudice set in a Bollywood style.
Released in 2004, the film earned £24 million from a £7 million budget. The film stars an international mixture of actors from Bollywood’s Anupam Kher and Aishwarya Rai, British actor Naveen Andrews and American actor Marin Henderson.
The film was hugely successful because of its all-star cast and Meera Syal won yet another screenplay award for the film.
Brick Lane (2007)
Brick Lane is a 2007 film directed by Sarah Gavron and is based on British Asian writer Monica Ali’s novel of the same name.
The film introduces the British Bengali identity and also incorporates the themes of cultural identity finding acceptance in British society.
It deals with issues of desire, love and betrayal. The script follows the life of a Bengali woman played by Tanishta Chaterjee.
Coming to Britain as a new wife, she finds herself at a loss to adjust to the cold and quiet lifestyle until she finds love outside of marriage.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
The 2008 hit Slumdog Millionaire remains the most successful British Asian film ever. Directed by Danny Boyle the story is based on the popular television game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
The script however, was actually adapted from Indian author Vikas Swarup’s and his 2005 novel called Q&A. The film introduced young actors, Dev Patel and Freida Pinto giving them their first break in films.
It became the highest grossing British Asian film ever with $377 million from a budget of only $15 million. The film won a tumultuous number of awards including Oscars, Academy Awards and Golden Globes.
Four Lions (2010)
Four Lions directed by English satirist Chris Morris. Known for his black humour, Four Lions marked Morris’s debut in film directing and remains one of his best works.
Dealing with the controversial subject of terrorism, the film is a dark comedy in a satirical fashion involving British Asian men.
It has been critically applauded by many for it’s open and delicate handling of difficult social issues and maintains the honest integrity of all its main characters.
The cast includes Kayvan Novak, Riz Ahmed, Adeel Akhtar, WilliamAdamsdale and Arsher Ali.
Trishna is an epic romance drama directed by Michael Winterbottom. It stars Frieda Punto and Riz Ahmed in the lead roles and is an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel, Tess of the D’Ubervilles.
Based in Rajasthan, Trishna falls in love with wealthy British businessman, Jay. However, they are constantly confronted with cultural, social and economic pressures which are keen to drive them apart.
The film comments on the huge divide that exists between the wealthy and the poor. Daughter of a driver, Trishna is constantly at odds with her traditional surroundings.
The Best Marigold Hotel (2011)
In 2011, The Best Marigold Hotel became an unexpected global hit and made $134 million. It is directed by film, television and theatre director John Madden.
The script is based on a group of retired British folk on a holiday to India. It stars highly acclaimed British actress Judi Dench, and actor Dev Patel in lead role of Sonny Kapoor.
The British characters are thrown into a world of chaos and colour and the light-hearted comedy interestingly subverts the British Asian concept as these English are outsiders in an Indian land.
British Asian films play a big role in offering an open discourse on the changing lifestyles of local people and the influx of cultural diversity that has made Britain what it is today.
With the rise of British Asian films, challenging both British society and Asian culture, they have provided an authentic voice for all British Asians living here today.
Which is your favourite cult British Asian film?
- East is East (31%)
- Bend it Like Beckham (26%)
- Four Lions (11%)
- Slumdog Millionaire (10%)
- The Best Marigold Hotel (7%)
- Bride and Prejudice (5%)
- Bhaji on the Beach (4%)
- Trishna (2%)
- Brick Lane (2%)
- Anita and Me (1%)