out of Five
Running time: 92
Reasonably successful comedy-drama with a strong performance by newcomer Chandeep Uppal and a supporting cast comprised of familiar TV faces.
The British Film Industry appears to be producing Anglo-Asian comedy-dramas at an ever-increasing rate since the release of East Is East a couple of years ago. What with The Guru, Bend It Like Beckham and now Anita & Me, they’ll soon be outnumbering those other favourite British genres, the sub-Lock Stock gangster-geezer flick or the Midlands-Based Comedy With Robert Carlyle In It. This is clearly No Bad Thing.
Anita & Me is written by TV’s Meera Syal and adapted from her own novel. It stars newcomer Chandeep Uppal as Meena, an adolescent Hindu girl growing up in a deprived Midlands mining town in 1972. Her only wish is to become a “blonde writer” and she soon becomes obsessed with her gorgeous new neighbour, the blonde, brassy, “cool” Anita, played by Anna Brewster.
When Meena helps Anita escape after a spot of shop-lifting, she’s allowed to join her tough girl gang ‘The Wenches’. However, their friendship grows increasingly strained, first when Meena’s parents disapprove, and second when Anita starts dating skinhead-in-waiting Sam (who Meena is also curiously attracted to).
Funny…Yet Serious Too
Consequently, there’s a lot of comedy in the film (a scene where Meena
performs ‘Gimme Dat Ding’ for her shocked family is a definite highlight), but there’s also a constant undercurrent of seriousness, with references to Enoch Powell and a subtle evocation of the casual racism of the period.
Occasionally, Huseyin handles the switches between the two moods well (such as in the scenes with Meena’s grandmother) but the film still feels uneven in places.
The acting is very good, particularly Uppal, who also handles the voice-over very well. There’s good support too, especially from Kathy Burke, who steals the film with a short, under-stated burst of classy acting in a key scene, but also from Sanjeev Bhaskhar and other familiar TV faces.
In short, Anita & Me may not be as flat-out enjoyable as Bend It Like Beckham, but it’s worth seeing and generates enough laughs to qualify as a decent comedy. The soundtrack is pretty good, too.