From the team behind Bend it Like Beckham comes this year’s new romantic comedy, It’s A Wonderful Afterlife, which is out on April 21st in the UK and Ireland. Award-winning director, Gurinder Chadha, is back with an Indian mum whose match-making efforts turn deadly when she tries to marry off her daughter.
SimplyBhangra.com's Monika Plaha and Navdeep Bains caught up with Gurinder Chadha and Goldy Notay at the the red carpet affair that was relaid back in Vue Star City, Birmingham for the Premiere of It’s a Wonderful Afterlife which is directed by Gurinder Chadha and stars Sanjeev Bhaskar, Steve Morphew, Jamie Sives, Jimi Mistry, Zoë Wanamaker, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Mark Addy, Shabana Azmi and Goldy Notay.
Where did the story originate from? What inspired you?
Everywhere I go everyone asks me to make ‘Bend it like Beckham’ again. It’s been seven years since that movie and I thought I’d like to make something else similar without repeating myself. I was watching the classic wedding scene from ‘Bend it like Beckham’ with B21 and I enjoyed shooting that scene and remember thinking I would absolutely love to make another scene like that without doing a complete copy.
I thought wouldn’t it be great if I could turn it into a scene from carry, the prom scene at the end where everything just goes terribly wrong! Ideas were zooming in and out of my head, and I thought how hilarious it would be of having red chilli chutney flying across all the buddiyeh (laughs) and the reaction they’d have on their face would be priceless! I also thought, there’s always a girl, who’s a little bit large who’s constantly getting their heart broken.
And no matter how many times their parents try and find them a boy, they’re always saying ‘hasn’t she lost weight yet?’ Until one day, the mother has just had enough of people being so horrible to her daughter she thinks ‘GREAT – let me just kill them one by one!’ Then she’ll do her magic with all her spices, cook the curry’s and kill them, then it just got madder and madder!! And this is why it’s a very mad movie!
People say it’s like ‘My big fat Greek wedding' and ‘Sean of the dead’ is it risky going with that jumble together. How do you think people would react to it?
It’s incredibly risky and there were times I was thinking what am I doing but thankfully Goldy (who plays Roopi) played it brilliantly and played it so real throughout and the love story that followed is at the heart of the movie so it’s definitely a strong reality and real emotions throughout the film.
How did you feel about putting weight on for this film?
I was just on my way back from the Gym where Gurinder asked me to put a stone and a half on before the film (laughs). I mean normally, when you go and see a film director you really want to look your best and when she said start eating I was like right okay! I had an ice cream immediately, it was so liberating to be able to have the permission to eat and eat, and I loved it!
Do you feel like you have to loose it now and get back into shape?
After shooting the film, I went straight back to the gym! I still eat well however, just decrease my portions. I especially love my carbs as I could never live without my pasta, my husbands Italian so he needs me to love pasta!
How was the atmosphere on set?
We’ve done lots of behind the scene sequences and bally sago has done a fantastic Bhangra version of ‘staying alive’ by the bee gees which was a great laugh, we’ve got some wonderful clips of making the film and from these you can really tell we had a great time making the film. I think it’s really important to be happy and to have a happy crew on set.
I work hard to make my crew and cast want to come to work and a brilliant time! Everyone works hard and works very long hours, people come in so early in the morning and leave so late at night and you can either go around and shout or just be friendly and nice where everyone just gets on with their job and has a good time. I have a great crew and we always help and support each other- we’re like one big family!
At lunch times, we used to constantly have curry but just to reassure you not the exploding kind (laughs). My cousin is a caterer and it was great because the English crew really appreciate things like this, and love Indian food!
Do you ever think that the novelty of this Indian genre will break off?
I have made ‘Angus, thongs and perfect snogging ‘which is definitely more directed towards the English genre. There’s such a big part of me that is English that it is hard to see where the Indian in me starts and the English stops. I love to twist English and Indian together and people who aren’t Indian will still see it as a British film.
The film is getting released in England as well as India and Pakistan, how do you think the reaction would vary?
The Punjabi version of this film is called ‘Hai mai murjama’ (laughs). I think it would be a similar reaction because the humours definitely universal but the people in India can definitely relate more to reincarnation, they’d definitely believe the film!
Has there been any personal experiences that have inspired you in your films?
Oh yes, definitely! There’s so much in all my films filled with many personal experiences from lots of different people, their personalities, experiences etc. I loved writing Sanjeevs lines within the film- the sexist pig! Although, he says some really hilarious lines which definitely appeals to the Asian community because they were very truthful.
Can you see any resemblances between you in real life and your character?
She’s really opinionated and firm which are the qualities in which my friends have. So every so often, I’d steal a few lines from my friends and slyly observe them. When my friends came to the premiere in London they came after me and were like ‘You copied me’ ‘I know you said that from me’ (laughs) and I was like consider it a compliment.
What’s it like from working in sex and the city to working in this film?
In terms of characters, Roopi is not a very glamorous yet completely the opposite. That’s actually what I love about her! This is why I love what I do because I would never want to play myself all the time or even a similar character- I have Gurinder to thank for this! I think Roopi was a great challenge for me as it wasn’t easy, I don’t like easy, easy’s boring!
Sometimes it was hard for Roopi because at the end of the day, this is a comedy and we’re taking the mick but we still have to sympathise with her. When Roopi starts we can’t recognise Goldy at all, these ghosts begin to go on a quest to find her a husband that’s how extreme it gets (laughs). People look at her and think ‘cor blimey’, you don’t want to think its true but she does look so bad but it comes across so real that’s why we all end up feeling sorry for Roopi, especially when you see her in that horrible cardigan.
Goldys wardrobe should really be burnt (laughs), the poor thing it’s all shapeless! I would ask to borrow it and would walk around nothing hill where I live wearing it. It feels so different taking away all the makeup, the nice clothes and the nice hair in exchange for this. It was definitely an amazing learning experience, and that’s what I loved about playing Roopi.
How did it feel to be one of the very few to receive your OBE?
Wow, it was an amazing moment! It was so important to my family too. My dad was so delighted and my mum’s relatives from Indian were frantically calling saying congratulations and sending their praises. It was great to meet the Queen too, great experience! It’s funny because my nick name is ‘G’ and now they call me ‘G’ ‘O’ ‘B’ ‘E’ which is exactly like gobi!! (laughs).
We thank both Gurinder Chadha and Goldy Notay for their time for the interview. It’s released 21st April and if you liked movies like Bend it Like Beckham or East is East, you’ll love this one too.
More on the Movie
Interview with Gurinder Chadha and Goldy Notay by Monika Plaha and Navdeep Bains