Gurinder Chadha is also working on a project on female infanticide, British TV dramas, and has Prince Charles to thank for her upcoming pre-Partition film
Natasha Coutinho (MUMBAI MIRROR; June 30, 2017)

Brit-Indian director Gurinder Chadha, who’s currently in India to promote her upcoming film, Viceroy’s House, (Hindi version titled Partition: 1947) has a lot more up her sleeve. “I’m working on a fantastic project set in India, focussing on female infanticide which I’d like to make with an Indian actor. I also have a deal with Freemantle Media back in UK for some high-end TV dramas and I’m also exploring some Hollywood scripts,” she informs, before revealing the piece de resistance, “My 2002 film, Bend It Like Beckham, which people still love, is getting a stage version in North America. We’re casting for it at the moment.”

She, however, sighs over the fact that when you make a really successful film, everyone wants you to make it over and over again. “I’m hoping that with Viceroy’s House, I can woo them with a film that has nothing to do with football,” says Gurinder, who having worked with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Bride And Prejudice and Mistress Of Spices is up for the challenge of making a massy Bollywood film. “I had a lot of fun working with Aishwarya during Bride and Prejudice which was my version of a Hindi musical,” she reminisces, adding that when she is in New York now, she often meets Priyanka Chopra and recently bumped into her mother, Madhu Chopra too. “Priyanka’s really smart. She’s doing well in the US as an actor and is even producing. I’m sure we’ll see more of this in the future, with Bollywood actors becoming global stars.”

For now, the focus is on her next. She grew up in the shadow of the Partition with her ancestral home going to the newly formed Pakistan while she grew up in the UK. “I never had a homeland, my family belongs to the old India so we couldn’t relate to Pakistan. My grandparents got a refuge home in India but it wasn’t our ancestral land. In the UK, I was told in history class that the Partition happened because the English decided it was time to leave and since Indians were fighting amongst themselves, Viceroy Mountbatten had no choice but to divide the country to maintain peace."

“It was only in 2008, when I did the BBC documentary Who Do You Think You Are? that tracing my roots, I went from England to Kenya, India to Pakistan, where I was greeted with flowers and a shawl. Touched, I wanted to make something on the Partition,” she narrates, saying during her research, she acquired the rights to one of here father’s favourite books, Freedom At Midnight, and spent two years scripting it.

Later, she met Prince Charles at St James Palace and when she told him that she was making a film on his uncle Mountbatten, he recommended Narendra Singh Sarila’s book, The Shadow Of The Great Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition. “He told me Sarila knew his uncle and the book showed how the British used Mountbatten. Two days later, I flew to India and was hounded by a young actor, who was so desperate to meet me that he was prepared to stand in the hotel lobby all day. He gave me a book his father had written on the Partition. It was the same one Prince Charles had mentioned. A few days later, Narendra Singh Sarila flew to London to meet me and Viceroy’s House was born,” she smiles.

The smile turns to a sigh when she recalls the late Om Puri. “I’m so sad he’s not here to see it. He was so happy when he got the script because a Punjabi woman was making it. Everyday after ‘pack up’ he’d compliment me saying, ‘Bibiji tussi bahut acha kaam kar rahe ho, you’re working really hard.’ He was proud that as a Punjabi I was handling the subject differently,” she flashbacks.

What about Huma Qureshi? The smile returns, “I didn’t know her at all but her audition tape was fantastic. She’s feisty and natural, a hattikatti Punjabi woman!”