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Meena (Chandeep Uppal) is the 12 year old daughter of Indian parents (Ayesha Dharker and Sanjeev Bhaskar) who live in the mining village of Tollington, in 1972. Her suburban life surrounded by eccentric relatives and friends is disrupted by the arrival of 14 year old Anita Rutter (Anna Brewster), who is blonde, outrageous and sassy – everything Meena thinks she wants to be. But life is complicated with the arrival of a baby brother, teenage hormones and the pressure of impending entrance exams for the posh grammar school.

Review by Louise Keller:
Considered by some as a poor-man’s version of Bend It Like Beckham, Anita and Me is the story of two young girls rebelling against their cultures and hormones. Where the film comes into its own is as a coming of age story about life in a small-minded village. The Indian culture is very much at odds with the overtly suburban English one. Like Jess who has a dream of playing soccer like David Beckham, Meena dreams of becoming a writer and jots down her secret thoughts in a locked diary. Her dream is non-specific and the mining village of Tollington in the British Midlands is far away from everywhere. It seems quite strange for an Indian girl to speak with such a broad regional accent and she is very much a fish-out-of water. While her parents wear Indian clothes and live a traditional Indian life, Meena was born in England and doesn’t really belong anywhere. (She would rather dig in to fish ‘n chips than eat the usual Indian spicy fare). Her parents gravitate towards anyone who is Indian and bring them home as though they were relations, much to the disdain of the neighbours. Then Meena meets the town’s bad-girl Anita, who is everything Meena aspires to be – blonde and sexy. They have a push-pull relationship, and Meena’s concerned parents are against the friendship. 

Set in the 70s, there’s an undercurrent of racism – even the black poodle is called Nigger, and the songs of the era - like In the Summertime, Ruby and Neverending Love to take us on a musical carpet ride. The effective use of music reminds me a little of how music was used in Billy Elliot – to great effect. There is no great dramatic curve in the story, but we explore the lifestyle and get to know the people of Tollington. It’s the characters who endear themselves to us. Characters like Mrs Ormerod (Lynn Redgrave, almost unrecognisable) who, unsuccessfully, tries to keep the girls from pinching lollies from her corner store, Uncle Alan the hippy vicar and Grandma who visits from India and causes a stir. The two leading roles (Chandeep Uppal and Anna Brewster) are played by two newcomers from Birmingham, and both are naturals. Uppal has an ugly duckling quality that is appealing, while Brewster effuses confidence. Wonderful performances, too, by Ayesha Dharker and Sanjeev Bhaskar as Meena’s parents, who bring the taste and authenticity of India herself to England. It’s a sweet chapter in the life of a young girl battling to identify with her roots and environment, although it never reaches the heights that Bend It Like Beckham achieves.

The DVD features a behind the scenes featurette on the making of the movie and includes some cast and crew interviews.

Published September 25, 2003

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CAST: Kabir Bedi, Max Beesley, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Anna Brewster, Kathy Burke, Ayesha Dharker, Omid Djalili, Lynn Redgrave

DIRECTOR: Metin Hüseyin

SCRIPT: Meera Syal (novel by Meera Syal)

RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen (1.85:1/16: 9 enhanced)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind the scenes featurette on making of movie featuring cast and crew interviews; picture disc.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: September 24, 2003

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