It all began in 2005. Gurinder Chadha was watching ‘The 100 Greatest Family Films’ on Channel 4. Somewhere in the middle of the programme (Number 71 to be exact), narrator Bob Hoskins introduced the wedding scene from Bend It Like Beckham.
“It was the Indian wedding scene and the party, which was inter-cut with the football,” begins Chadha, “and immediately I remembered how much fun we’d had shooting that scene. The wedding is so integral to our culture that I suddenly thought ‘How can I do another wedding scene without repeating myself?’ I wanted to do another one but to do it slightly differently. So I thought maybe I could do it with a horror spin, where everything goes awry. Much like the prom scene at the end of Carrie.”
“I started making movies because I wanted to see more people that looked like me or my community on our screens and It’s A Wonderful Afterlife represents me taking those images and putting them into a genre we, as Asians could never imagine we could see ourselves in. When I was growing up, we never saw Asians on TV never mind the Western movies, my work has been about making us mainstream and now I have helped achieve that, I want to have fun with it.”
Working with long-time collaborator and screenwriter Paul Mayeda Berges, Chadha spent two and half years crafting the script. “I started seeing this crazy film, set in Ealing, in the world of Bend It Like Beckham and yet in a completely different genre,” continues Chadha. “We worked on the script, came up with the idea of the mum, the plump daughter and these spirits that return.”
Starting out with the working title ‘My Bloody Wedding,’ Chadha and Berges created the character of Roopi, a young British Indian woman, and Mrs Sethi, her meddling mother. “Really it’s an Ealing comedy about an Indian mum who lives with her daughter. The daughter is a little bit overweight, not exactly beautiful and has a broken engagement behind her,” explains Chadha.
Chadha, who counts the Frank Capra movie It’s A Wonderful Life in her top three films of all time, suddenly happened upon her title while doing the housework. “And then, one day, when I was doing the washing up, it hit me: why don’t I call the film It’s A Wonderful Afterlife? Once I’d crystallized that title, the film really started to take shape.”
It’s a Wonderful Afterlife releases in India on May 7. It’s an Indian Films- Studio18 release.