Having directed the popular blockbusters Bend It Like Beckham and Bride & Prejudice, British filmmaker Gurinder Chadha is known for her comedy and culture-driven movies that appeal to a global audience.
Now the 57-year-old is back with a new flick, Viceroy’s House, based on events leading up to the birth of independent India in 1947, and the creation of a new Muslim homeland, Pakistan.
Speaking to Be ahead of the film’s release in Australia, Gurinder admits this movie is different from her usual light-hearted productions, but one that is very “moving” and “strangely very resonant for today”.
“When we made the film, when we first started writing the script, it was a very different world. There was no Syrian refugee crisis and there was no Brexit and Obama was President,” she tells Be.
“So from the time we started making the film to now when the film’s coming out, the world’s changed enormously,” she adds.
Viceroy's House shows Queen Victoria’s great grandson Lord Mountbatten taking on the post of last Viceroy, responsible for handing India back to its people after 300 years of British rule.
Gurinder says the religious and political conflict portrayed in the film is not an unfamiliar concept in today’s world, appealing to all cultures, not just Indians.
Having already released the flick in the UK, the director reflects that the “majority of people watched the film and were quite moved by it regardless of their cultural background”.
She is optimistic that local audiences will also engage with the film, as “Australians here have those ties with Britain [as it's part of the Commonwealth] and this is a film about the British Empire”.
“My films have done really well here,” she tells Be, and she's certainly not wrong.
Gurinder’s movies tend to have a strong cultural emphasis underpinning the plotlines, and it’s been no easy feat to bring these diverse stories to the big screen.
Noting the lack of diversity in the cut-throat film industry, Gurinder tells Be: “Twenty-five years ago I made my first feature film Bhaji On The Beach and now twenty-five years later Viceroy’s House.
“I was the first Indian woman to make a feature film in Britain. Twenty-five years later I’m still the only Indian woman making feature films in Britain. So there’s not many of us around.”
She adds: “I grew up in a time when there were no Asians on TV - very very few - and I’ve been part of the change. I’ve been part of making it happen.
“My films have changed race relations in Britain and my films have inspired people to do other stuff on TV.”
Viceroy’s House hits screens in Australia on May 18.