This is one of the few times where I first saw a film before reading the book which inspired it. I still vividly remember that it was a lazy Sunday afternoon in Mumbai’s sultry summer when I chanced upon this film playing on ‘Star Movies’. The atmosphere at home was laden with blissful sleep which was a natural consequence of a scrumptious feast devoured at lunch….
Coming back to the subject, I felt at the time that the film was rather stereotypical of the portrayal of an Indian immigrant family living in the UK. However, it is only when I read the book that my perception changed. I can safely say that ‘Anita & Me’ is a true echo of life as an Indian immigrant in 70s Britain; Britain that was not as ethnically diverse as it is today, a place where an immigrant truly felt that he/she was an ‘outsider’ especially in a coal mining village which was predominantly white. Now, add to this the pangs of a teenage girl trying to make sense of adolescence and culture conflict at the same time. What you get is a book rich in story line and characterisation.
The protagonist of the book Meena, adores Anita, a white British girl living in the same locality as Meena and her Punjabi family. Meena is somewhat drawn towards Anita and her boldness. The two begin to form a friendship characteristic of adolescence when one is trying to establish one’s own identity. The complexities of this process are brought to fore as cultural conflict creates the expected anxieties. However, as you read it you begin to wonder whether true friendship manages to rise above the very obvious differences that are presented to us.
Meera Syal is one of Britain’s most popular authors and film makers. The book has also managed to make its mark in Britain’s education system where it is part of the English Literature coursework for the GCSEs. I would say to you, watch the film by all means but don’t forget to read the book!