From Birmingham to Blackpool Via Bombay
A group of women from the Asian community in Birmingham all head out on a day trip to Blackpool. It is a diverse bunch from older women who immigrated to England and are raised in their traditions to those born in England and are more modern in their thinking. On the trip is Hasida (Sarita Khajuria) who much to her parent's happiness is due to leave for medical school except only her close friend knows that she has just found out she is pregnant by her secret West Indian boyfriend and is unsure what to do. Also on the trip is Ginder (Kim Vithana) who has brought shame on her parents because she is seeking to divorce her abusive husband (Jimmi Harkishin). As the day proceeds these women find they have more in common than they ever realised.
"Bhaji on the Beach" is one of those charming movies where the charm comes from observing characters and situations mostly familiar to us but played out in an over the top manner. For example we have Zohra Segal as one of the older women who have been brought up with traditions, she plays the sort of character you would see in the community but here we have her voice, her disapproval of modern ways and it is comical. The same with the younger girls who have no tradition about them at all as these are the sort of characters we again see on the streets but here the brashness of them is intentionally over the top.
But there is more to it than presenting the Asian community as caricatures as there is a whole lot of humour from Jimmi Harkishin and his brothers going all "Goodfellas" in trying to track down Ginder, all of which borders on the corny but also highly enjoyable. I could carry on because writers Gurinder Chadha and Meera Syal fill the movie with plenty of observational humour based on cultural stereotypes.
Of course there is more to "Bhaji on the Beach" as we see various aspects of life from racism to sexism and considering this is a movie just over 20 years old it is sad to see how racism was not that long ago. There is also the bonding, the friendships which form, the lessons learned and so on and in a way that is the one problem which "Bhaji on the Beach" has as it presents us with all these characters and trying to keep track of them, who they are, what their issue is and how they connect becomes a little too much.
What this all boils down to is that "Bhaji on the Beach" is one of those movies which works if you can recognize the character types on show and if you do it is a lot of fun but also provides food for thought when it comes to traditional and the modern way. But it does suffer from presenting us with a few too many characters and stories to follow.