Crossover Cinema


Through the breakdown of physical barriers, globalisation has enabled greater integration, communication and interactivity between cultures across the globe. Cultural mixing has indeed created a richer and more diverse global community. Globalisation has particularly had a significant impact on the film industry. Prior to globalisation, the cultural lines of film industries across the globe remained separate and parallel to each other; however, now, a new genre of ‘crossover cinema’ has emerged as a result of the intersection of these cultural lines. As Sukhmani Khorana (2013, p.2) defines it:

Crossover cinema is used to encapsulate an emerging form of cinema that crosses cultural borders at the stage of conceptualisation and production and hence manifests a hybrid cinematic grammar at the textual level, as well as crossing over in terms of its distraction and reception.

bend_it_like_beckham_ver2_xlgThis new ‘globaltic’ genre of crossover cinema has been prominent in the cultural interactions between North America’s Hollywood and South East Asia’s Bollywood. In the past decade or so, it is quite evident that the East has finally met the West with Hollywood adopting filmic practices of hybridity as a means to ‘transgress genre, audience and cultural borders (Khorana 2013, p.3). Adoption of the term crossover cinema gained considerable momentum in India after the release of the films, Monsoon Wedding, Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice which gained mainstream success amongst both the Western audience and the Indian audience.

Gurinder Chadha’s Bend it Like Beckham is a classic crossover film that grossed over 11 million pounds in the UK alone (Jouhal 2003). In fact, this made the film one of the highest grossing Black British movies to date (Jouhal 2003). Other than the warmth of the film and the countless comedic moments, why is Bend it Like Beckham so popular? The answer is pretty simple — the film has an ability to attract and connect with a wider audience, including niche audiences. As Tejinder Jouhal succinctly sums in a nutshell:

‘With a desire to make a film that would speak to people from all walks of life, [Chadha] combined the national passion for football with the everyday, suburban family lives of two young girls living in the culturally mixed outskirts of West London.’

Thus the film not only gained great success in the US and the UK, it also proved to be very popular in India.The mixed use of English, Hindi and Punjabi made the film appealing to a wider audience. As Ranjit Keval Kumar (2011, p.137) writes, ‘The use of Punjabi dialogues that are not subtitled in the original version reveals that the film directly talks to an audience that is not geographically confined but to ethnic audiences within and beyond its borders’.

Furthermore, according to Ranjit Kumar (2013, p.138), traditional Bollywood typically follows two narrative tropes in films displaying NRIs (Non-Resident Indians):

The NRI protagonist who abides by every Indian custom and tradition or;

The NRI protagonist is displayed in a negative light as he/she loses to the liberal and non-traditional Western values.

However, Gurinder Chadha departs from such traditional structures and adopts an alternative, Western approach in her film. Unlike traditional NRI Bollywood films, the film explores many universal contemporary issues including gender identity, multiculturalism and issues of national identity. Through such issues, the film draws on integration, assimilation, affiliation and segregation (Kumar 2011, p.137) amongst the older generation of immigrants and the first generation of Indians. The film is set in the backdrop of South Hall, UK, and demonstrates the way in which the Indian identity can be established beyond the country in which one lives. Thus the indian culture or ‘indianness’ is not restricted geographically. However, the protagonist, Jess struggles with balancing her two worlds: her British home and her Indian cultural background (Kumar 2011, p.137) — an issue which i’m sure many individuals can relate to. Thus the film maintains a typically British narrative but also ‘integrates ‘Bollywood music and boisterous marriage ceremonies’ as they ‘remind the viewers of Bollywood-styled song and dance ‘interruptions’ (Kumar 2011, p.138).

It is also interesting to note that Gurinder Chadha is British with Sikh Indian origins. Due to her own cultural mix of ‘Britishness’ and ‘Indianness’, Chadha has a history of exploring the struggles British Indians face in constructing their own cultural identity. Thus Chadha is able to effectively employ her personal experiences of growing up as a British Indian to construct more authentic and relatable movies.

Crossover cinema has enabled greater cultural interactions and awareness which in turn, has attracted diverse groups of audiences. However as Khorana (2013, p.6) notes, while the Western audience have been enriched through such cultural integration, such films do ‘not assume a Western audience at the outset but rather [are] forged from multiple cultural affiliations and eventually appeal to a range of viewing communities among whom the Western audience is only one possibility’.

Reference List

Hotfuss44, Bend it Like Beckham Trailer, 5 November, video, YouTube, <> .

Khorana, 2 (2013) ‘Crossover Cinema: A Conceptual and Genealogical Overview’ Crossover Cinema: Crosscultural Film from Production to Reception, New York: Routledge, pp. 3-13.