Spend your afternoon overseas
By Lisa Weaver
What happens when a diverse group of Indian women decide to take a day trip to the English seaside, away from the patriarchal influence of their community? Generations, cultures and sexes clash in Bhaji on the Beach, a contemporary film directed by Gurinder Chadha.
The film is the first in a series which will be shown as part of the International Film Series, an annual year-long event sponsored by International/Exchange Student Affairs and the University Students' Council. The films will be shown at 2 p.m. on six Sunday afternoons, free of charge, in the McKellar Room of the University Community Centre. Each film will be hosted by a speaker or panel of staff and students who are familiar with the culture and customs depicted in each film. The series features six films in total, each addressing issues of cultural difference and a discussion will follow each showing.
Bhaji on the Beach is a dark comedy exploring the problems which arise when one culture is placed within another. The older Indian generations, who remember the customs which were followed in their original country, attempt to instill these ways of living upon their youth. Problems arise, however, when the youth are tempted by the mass English culture they see around them and attempt to stray from their communities.
The film depicts the clash between the matriarchal "aunts" of the families and the young women who have learned feminist ideals from their peers.
One of the central conflicts in Bhaji on the Beach involves Ginder (played by Kim Vithana), a young woman who takes control and leaves her abusive husband. The viewer is tempted to feel anger towards the older generation, who chastise Ginder's dishonourable actions, saying she must be at fault for the break-up. All of the women soon band together, however, as they see the true nature of Ginder's husband's temperament and realise she is better off alone. The view of male violence in Indian culture is one of the topics which will be discussed by the speakers after the film is shown on Sunday.
Although the themes in the film are quite serious, the actual tone is not. It is humorous to the viewer when the sternest, oldest woman of the group is surrounded by dancing male strippers, simply because we can see the hilarity of the situation and laugh along with her. These types of generation clashes are repeated throughout the film, most notably in the situation of Hashida (played by Sarita Khajuria), a young woman destined by her family to become a doctor but who ends up pregnant by her black boyfriend.
Hashida quickly becomes an outcast when her situation becomes known, but it is somewhat reconciled by the end of the film, as all the women learn tolerance of each other.
In essence, Bhaji on the Beach is about acceptance of the things you cannot change. The film presents a series of oppositional forces and forces the characters, as well as the viewers, to reconcile themselves with their differences, rather than solve the problems. The film simply wants people to recognise that we are all essentially different whether it is age, race, religion or culture and that those differences will never be reconciled.
Aruna Mathur of the Modern Eastern Civilizations Program at Huron College will be speaking this Sunday after the film, along with medical students Supriya Joshi and Tejinder Chhina, who will provide a male perspective. The discussion will be directed towards issues of cultural difference as seen in Bhaji on the Beach as well as those of young Indian people living within Canadian culture.