Interview with Gurinder Chadha – Director of Desi Rascals
With the countdown reaching near to its end for the guaranteed hit show Desi Rascals, here’s an interview with show director Gurinder Chadha revealing more about the social and cultural elements of what we can expect…
Can you just describe the premise of the series?
Desi Rascals is a fantastic show about British-Asians living in West London. It’s unscripted, so different to what I normally do. I haven’t written these characters – in Desi Rascals we have real people who have brilliant spontaneous exchanges that I could never write. What Desi Rascals offers is a massive burst of energy, storytelling and characters that would take me years to put together if I was making a movie.
Where does the term Desi Rascals come from?
Desi actually means of the land, of your homeland, but the right equivalent here is homeboy, it’s a term that we all use among ourselves. It’s mainly used in North America among kids of Indian origin, and now it has become a sort of social media word to reflect anybody who is Indian or South Asian, but not from South Asia itself. So we had desi, then someone in the office came up with Desi Rascals, as in Dizzee Rascal, and it was perfect. It’s cheeky and it’s very London.
Why is now the right time to showcase the British-Asian community in a show like this?
I did Bend it Like Beckham in 2002, that’s 12 years ago, and there has been very little since about that sort of West London community that’s been really big or mainstream. It was brilliant that I was able to pitch a show that really reflects the community now, 12 years on, because when I go to big family occasions and parties, it’s brilliant and different to when I was young. With scripted drama, or documentary, you’re often stuck with a particular vision of what the Asian community is like, whereas in Desi Rascals you get drama, issues, larger than life characters all showcased in a three-dimensional way. Desi Rascals shows you how English we are as well as how British Asian we are.
So what sort of characters were you looking for?
The most important thing when we were casting was that it had to be authentic, real people who are going through real issues that affect our community, and I also wanted to show the fun elements of our community. It’s a very inclusive show. I think people are going to be really surprised by it, much in the way they were at how successful Bend it Like Beckham was.
Is it important that it’s a multi-generational show?
It’s completely important to me that it’s multi-generational and I think that in some ways that’s what sets it apart from other reality shows. It’s very important to me that the parents and grandparents are present as much as the kids. Having older generations in our show allows us to show how the pressures on that generation are as important as those of the younger people. Parents sometimes put pressure on their kids, but there’s also pressure on them because they want to do the best for their kids as well as upholding certain traditions and values, which is where the tension and drama really comes from.
And how important is social media going to be to the show?
That’s going to be a fourth element of the storytelling. Social media is going to be critical because there are so many Asians around the world who will want to see this and be a part of it.
What are you most looking forward to bringing into the mainstream sphere?
I think it’s what I always do which is show our lives as British Asians in a multifaceted way and show how similar we all are, and that the differences are there to be enjoyed and celebrated. That’s a very important message.
So will we see that vibrant world that we saw in Bend it Like Beckham and Bride & Prejudice?
That’s our aim. We specifically chose to have a Bollywood element to the show because it’s such an important part of the Asian community. It gives us a fantastic scale and scope for entertainment as well as colour and music, and I hope that, like Bend it Like Beckham, this really becomes a must-see because you’re genuinely interested in how the lives of these people unfold.
Don’t forget to tune in to Sky Living on 20th January for the first episode.