• Vikas Gogana

7 Must-Watch British Asian Films!

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

British Asian marathon anyone?

The following seven films are films that every single British Asian MUST watch!

Whether it be because they star an Asian character, were made by an Asian director or the story is British Asian to it's core, these 7 films are must-sees!

1. Bend it like Beckham

Gurinder Chadha's "Bend it like Beckham" is, quite simply, an iconic film. Released in 2002, it kickstarted the careers of Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley, with both of them becoming superstars following it's release.

The film follows Jess Bhamra (Parminder Nagra), the daughter of a strict Indian couple (Anupam Kher, Shaheen Khan) in London, who is not permitted to play organized football, even though she is 18. When Jess is playing for fun one day, her impressive skills are seen by Jules Paxton (Keira Knightley), who then convinces Jess to play for her semi-pro team. Jess uses elaborate excuses to hide her matches from her family while also dealing with her romantic feelings for her coach, Joe.

Bend it spoke to British Asians all over the UK, as well as people all over the world, judging from it's worldwide box office of $76.6 million, off of a $6 million budget. Who couldn't relate to oppressive parents?

The film was one of the first of it's kind, and Chadha's follow-up to her surprise critical and commercial success, "Bhaji on the Beach"... but we'll get to that later.

2. Four Lions

Chris Morris' "Four Lions" is another sleeper hit that unexpectedly became a cult classic. You'll find it hard to find a British Asian who hasn't seen this satirical take on a group of wannabe terrorists. The film kickstarted the careers of Riz Ahmed, Adeel Akhtar, Kayvan Novak, and Arsher Ali - all of whom have gone on to have enviable careers.

The film follows a group of young Muslim men living in Sheffield who decide to wage jihad, as they hatch an inept plan to become suicide bombers. Omar (Riz Ahmed) and Waj (Kayvan Novak) have a brief, disastrous run at a Pakistan training camp, while Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) works on an unlikely scheme to train birds to carry bombs. Their ill-conceived plan culminates at the London Marathon with their bumbling attempts to disrupt the event while dressed in outlandish costumes.

"Four Lions" was so popular in fact, that upon release, the number of cinemas screening the film had to be upped from 115 in the UK to 200, due to high demand. This was then increased to a national release, and the film grossed £2,932,366 at the UK box office. Director Chris Morris even received the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer in 2011!

Time Magazine ranked the film as among their Top 10 Movies of 2010, and quite frankly, it was a well deserved accolade. If you haven't seen this cult classic, add it to your watch list now. It's sure to move you in ways you will not expect.

3. East is East

This Ayub Khan Din-penned film remains a staple in every South Asian household. Initially produced as a play, it was adapted into a film in 1999, and proved a smash-hit, garnering 5 BAFTA nominations in 2000, and winning the award for Best British Film!

It starred Bollywood legend, Om Puri, as well as rising stars Archie Panjabi and Jimi Mistry. It followed George Khan, proud Pakistani and chip shop owner -- Ghengis to his kids -- as he rules his family with an iron fist. He thinks he's raising his seven children to be respectable Pakistanis. But this is Salford in the North of England, in 1971. Much as George's English wife, Ella, loves and tries to honor her husband, she also wants her kids to be happy. The children, caught between bell-bottoms and arranged marriages, simply want to be citizens of the modern world.

The film spoke to 2nd Generation British Asians directly - stuck between their parents old school ways, and the country that they were born in. It proved a massive success, making £10 million at the UK Box Office, off of a £1.9 million budget, as well as making over $4.1 million at the UK Box Office.

4. Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" was released in 2008, winning 8 Academy Awards in 2009, including Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing!

The film followed a Mumbai teenager by the name of Jamal as he reflects on his life after being accused of cheating on the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

The film was a smash-hit, with both Asian and non-Asian audiences alike. It launched the career of Dev Patel into super-stardom who, up until the release of this film, was best known for his role on "Skins."

"Slumdog Millionaire" was made on a budget of $15 million, and made $377.89 million worldwide by the end of its run. After 11 years, the film remains Fox Searchlight's highest grossing motion picture ever, beating out Juno, Black Swan, Birdman and many other critically acclaimed films. If you haven't seen this film, you better go out and by the DVD now!

5. Bhaji on the Beach

Gurinder Chadha makes her second appearance on this list, with her cult classic, "Bhaji on the Beach." Written by comedy icon, Meera Syal, this film, released in 1993 was a surprise hit. Chadha's debut feature film not only won her an Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Newcomer, but also garnered her a nomination for Best British Film at the 1995 BAFTA awards.

The film follows a group of women of Indian descent who take a trip together from their home in Birmingham, England to the beach resort of Blackpool. The women vary in ages from mid-teens to old, and initially have little in common. But the events of the day lead them to better mutual understanding and solidarity.

Bhaji on the Beach is a hilarious, quirky mix of British and Indian humour, and you will struggle to find a British Asian who hasn't seen it!

6. Blinded by the Light

Gurinder Chadha's 3rd hit on this list - the Bruce Springsteen-inspired "Blinded by the Light", was released in 2019, following it's premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

The film follows Javed, a teenager, who in 1987, during the austere days of Margaret Thatcher's Britain, learns to live life, understand his family, and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen.

It stars rising star Viveik Kalra (best known previously for ITV's Next of Kin and ITV's Beecham House), Kulvinder Ghir, and Dean Charles-Chapman of Game of Thrones fame. Be sure to watch this new release, as it will definitely be a British Asian classic in the years to come!

7. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

John Madden's "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" was released in 2011 to critical acclaim, and became a surprise box office hit, making $136.8 million off of a $10 million budget.

The film starred British acting royalty Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Dev Patel, hot off the heels of Slumdog Millionaire's success.

The film follows some British retirees (Dench, Smith, Nighy) who decide to outsource their retirement to exotic -- and less expensive -- India. Lured by advertisements for the newly restored Marigold Hotel and imagining a life of leisure in lush surroundings, they arrive and find that the Marigold is actually a shell of its former self. Though their new home is not quite what they had imagined, the retirees find that life and love can begin again when they let go of their pasts. On their journey, they meet the young and eager manager, Sonny (Patel).

The film was nominated for a BAFTA, 5 BIFAs, and 2 Golden Globe awards.

That rounds out our list! There are a couple that didn't quite make the cut, but take a look at them in the Special Mentions section below!


Special Mentions:

1. Yesterday (2019) - directed by Danny Boyle, starring Himesh Patel and Lily James.

2. Anita & Me (2002) - directed by Metin Hüseyin, starring Kabir Bedi, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal.

3. Bride and Prejudice (2004) - directed by Gurinder Chadha, starring Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson and Anupam Kher.

4. West is West (2010) - directed by Andy De Emmony, starring Aqib Khan, Om Puri and Linda Bassett.

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