Monica Ali's novel, "Brick Lane," the story of a Bangladeshi family in London's East End, has been made into a movie and it exposes audiences to an immigrant community rarely seen on screen.
The new experience isn't limited to the audience, though - neither director Sarah Gavron or lead actress Tannishtha Chatterjee are Bangladeshi. So it was a learning curve for them, too, they told the audience at a screening for the South Asian Journalists Association convention.
The screening on Thursday night at Columbia University marked the beginning of the 2008 SAJA Convention. The screening, courtesy of Sony Picture Classics, played to a nearly full house, and featured a special Q&A session hosted by Aseem Chhabra with Gavron and Chatterjee.
The movie is adapted from a book of the same name by Monica Ali. It weaves through the life of Nazneen, as she grows up, marries at 17, moves to London and raises a family.
This is British director Gavron’s first feature-length film, and she said she picked Brick Lane because of its wide appeal across cultures.
“At its heart, it’s a human story,” Gavron said.
She noted that many of the important stories coming out of the U.K. now are from the immigrant community. In framing the context for the movie, Gavron said she wanted to capture the idea of telling the story of someone one may see on a bus everyday but know nothing about. This movie peeks into the home of that person, and finds Nazneen as she struggles to figure out whom to love and which place to call home.
the follow-up discussion, Gavron discussed the difficulties in casting
for the film, a process that took more than eight months. Chatterjee
was the very first woman to audition for the lead role.
The actress showed up to the audition at 8 a.m., having reached Mumbai that morning at 2 a.m. Chatterjee said she didn't know exactly what the role was about, so she wore jeans and a T-shirt to audition for the role of a tradition-bound Nazneen. Gavron was impressed from the beginning. Though they went on to audition more than 200 other people, they knew that Chatterjee was the one.
Chatterjee was called back a month and a half later, she arrived in a
sari, had read the script and was excited about the role. When she got
it, she felt it was a great opportunity, “I was kicked about the fact
that I had to go out there and explore another world to play this
Chatterjee is Bengali, and grew up in Pune, India. So to prepare for the role, she spent time in Bangladesh, immersing herself in its culture.
Chatterjee says such movies that require actresses to show skills beyond dancing in the rain are a growing trend in India.
lot of films are getting made from older literature, as well as
contemporary literature," she said. "In the last few months, Sarah has
been flooded with pitches of making books into films. So, I do think
The movie will open today in select theatres in New York, and next week in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.
Post comments below. PHOTOS: Preston Merchant