Director Gurinder Chadha, who so memorably introduced Desi culture to a new generation of Western audiences with Bend It Like Beckham nearly two decades ago, will direct a Bollywood-inspired musical for the legendary British studio Aardman, per Variety.
The film, which will tell the story of an elephant from the southern Indian state of Kerala who harbors the “impossible dream” of becoming a Bollywood dancer, is being written by Chadha and her husband/longtime creative partner, Paul Mayeda Berges.
Here’s what Chadha said in a statement:
“Aardman is a great British national treasure. I am honored and excited to bring my unique British Asian vision to their acclaimed animation studio. Their work has so much heart, humor and affection, and we share a love of authentic and joyful underdog stories about memorable characters – so it really is a perfect match.”
Aardman creative director Peter Lord added:
“We are so excited to be collaborating with Gurinder, a truly great director whose beautiful, funny, and warm storytelling we have long admired. Her talent, when combined with the team here at Aardman, promises something new and extraordinary in the world of animation.”
Although Aardman has dabbled in computer animation, it originally made a name for itself for its artisanal stop-motion techniques, displayed in films such as Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Flushed Away. Recently, it released two features in the Shaun the Sheep franchise, which itself is a spinoff to the Wallace and Gromit series.
Chadha, meanwhile, scored some of the best reviews of her career with her last feature film, Blinded by the Light, a coming-of-age comedy-drama inspired by the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor and his love for the music of Bruce Springsteen. It marked somewhat of a departure for Chadha, in that it switched from her usual depictions of the Indian immigrant experience to that of a Pakistani migrant family in Margaret Thatcher-era Britain, although the themes — class-conflict, racial tension, and the human desire to fit in — were ones she has been fascinated with all her career.
“Bollywood,” of course, is a reductive term that refers only to the mainstream Hindi film industry, based in the state of Maharashtra. Kerala, the state that Chadha’s elephant protagonist Bodhi comes from, has a thriving film industry of its own. In a way, Chadha‘s film is bridging cultural gaps in India, too.
Aardman will work with Indian voice talent, musicians, and designers on the project. Described by the company as an “exuberant, warm-hearted musical,” the new film doesn’t have a release date yet, but is in “advanced development.”