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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #32
November 07, 2007

Saris and Samosas

Bend It Like Beckham + India Without A Passport

The smash indie hit of 2003, Bend It Like Beckham, is one of those rare movies that satisfies viewers of all ages. Like a great Indian meal, it mixes disparate ingredients into a delicious entrée: sports, culture, cooking and a spicy parent/child conflict. The heroine, British teenager Jessminda, is caught between her passion to play soccer and respect for her immigrant parents, who want her to get married and cook chapattis. The film deals with issues of assimilation in a light-handed, yet poignant manner. With fancy ball handling and a cameo by soccer star David Beckham, our young boys were as engrossed in the action as our style-conscious girls.

We drew on our daughters' enthusiasm for Bend It as an excuse to explore an Indian neighborhood's shops and restaurants. We gave our girls the task of finding an outfit to wear to Indian wedding, like Jess did in the movie. Delighted with their assignment, they clumsily wrapped themselves in gold-shot saris, and learned from the amused shopkeepers that donning a sari takes much practice. We found matching bangles and decorative bindi, a traditional jewel worn between the eyebrows that once signified a woman’s marital status. We smelled curry and tumeric, tried on golden earrings and gazed at replicas of Hindu gods. Eventually, the growls of our tummies clamored louder than the tinkle of our bangle bracelets and we stopped for lunch. The waiter brought each girl a lassi, a iced blend of fruit and yogurt, which they immediately likened to a smoothie. Turns out, beneath the saris and samosas, some things are the same everywhere.

 
Film Title: Bend It Like Beckham
Directed By: Gurinder Chadha
2002, Rated PG, 112 minutes


Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this film:
  • Why This Film Is Worth It: This movie offers something for everyone in the family, from soccer to romance, while giving a glimpse into another culture.
  • Red Flags: Jess lies to her parents and plays soccer behind their backs. There's a racy scene in a car with Jess's older sister and a boyfriend who is not her fiancé. There's a running sub-plot in which Jess's best friend's mother assumes that the girls are gay; however, this is played for humor, and serves the generational conflict theme of the movie.
  • COOL FACT: Bend It gave Keira Knightley her break out role.

Our tips for talking to your kids about this film:
  • Cinema Savvy:  This film juggles as many story lines as it does soccer balls. Introduce the concept of genre to your kids by having them think up other movies with similar themes like sports, assimilation and coming-of-age. For example, Jess's struggle against tradition is reminiscent of The Whale Rider. Jess's romance with a young man from a different background is like Shrek or The Prince & Me. Jess's straddling two worlds feels a lot like My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
  • Gourmet Savvy:  Over an Indian meal, ask your kids to figure out what food items would taste like in other parts of the world.  For example, the nan or kulcha (bread) might be a tortilla, baguette or sandwich bread!
  • Cultural Savvy:  See Secret Agenda, below, for a great treasure hunt to get your kids talking to shop owners and comparing cultures.


 

A Visit to an Indian Neighborhood or Restaurant

Time Allotment: A meal takes about 90 minutes; however, poking around a neighborhood takes at least 3 hours.

Age Recommendation: Any age for a meal; 8 and up for shopping.



Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Popcorn Adventure:
  • Keep An Open Mind: In some cities, the shops look uninspiring until you step inside where we discovered the exotica for which we'd come. Dig a little and you'll find all the benefits of a day in Bombay without the jet lag.
  • Before You Go: Set a budget. With bangles glittering and saris beckoning, it's hard to choose. We gave our girls a budget and then let them decide!
  • Yummy, Yummy: See our tips for ordering in Good Eats, below, but remember to stick with milder curries and flavors.
  • A Note on Jewelry: Indian jewelry is beautiful and makes an exotic memento of the day. Just make sure you try on earrings before you purchase them -- we discovered that the posts are a bit thicker than what we're used to, so be sure they fit.
  • Use Homeless Bird's Glossary: Our girls had just finished Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan, a National Book Award winner, set in contemporary India. We copied the book's glossary and sent them on a scavenger hunt for the items listed, such as a sitar and incense. Local shopkeepers were tickled by the girls' interest.
  • Soccer Games Are a Perfect Activity: It's fun to take in a professional soccer game if your city has a team. If not, check out local college's and university's to see sophisticated soccer moves in action. Usually, it's easy to find good seats at college games.

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying the Popcorn Adventure all around the USA:

  • Anywhere: Google your city and Indian food, Indian shops, Indian clothes, Indian baazar
  • Boston: For a taste of India, head to Café of India in the heart of Harvard Square. Traditional and contemporary Indian cuisine is served in comfortable, kid-friendly booths, and buffet lunch is served every day. After lunch, stroll the Square’s multi-cultural shops. Another favorite, known as the first Indian fast-food restaurant in Boston, is Punjabi Dhaba in Inman Square.
  • Chicago: Chicago residents are lucky to have one of the country’s biggest, and most authentic, South Asian communities on and around Devon Avenue. Devon’s Desi corridor (Devon Ave. between Ravenswood and California Ave.) is home to a variety of authentic South Asian shops, restaurants, and grocery stores. When you work up an appetite, we recommend stopping at Hema’s Kitchen at 6406 N. Oakley Ave. for some of the city’s best Indian cuisine.
  • Houston: Plan for a full afternoon of shopping, relaxing and dining in Houston’s own “Little India.”  Start by browsing the gorgeous saris and Indian attire at Sari Sapne, located at 5651 Hillcroft, 713-783-1480.  If you need a quick spa stop or for the more adventuresome, a painted on henna “mehndi” design, end your afternoon at Apsara.  When you are ready for eats, take the family over to London Sizzler for a classic UK style Indian grill experience.  This is a day even Posh would love. . . 
  • New York: In Manhattan explore Little India between Park Avenue South and Lexington Avenue, from 27th - 29th Streets. For a map go to www.asiainnyc.org/5_6_maps.html.  For a larger scale adventure, visit Little India in Jackson Heights, Queens. Go to www.offbeattravel.com/queens-little-india.html  for a tour. Travel via the Roosevelt Avenue subway station and wander 74th Street from Roosevelt to 37th Avenue and the surrounding blocks.  Our daughters loved the collection of bangles, bindis, incense and miniature replicas (statues) of the Hindu gods at Butala Emporium (108 East 28th Street) which also has a location in Jackson Heights (37-46 74th Street).
  • San Francisco: November is the month for the 3rd I International Film Festival, which features a string of South Asian independent films. A new flick described as a "bittersweet coming-of-age" chronicle following four Indian boys from different castes is called "Unni" (Life Is All About Friends), held Nov. 18 at Roxie Cinema. For another delectable taste of Indian culture, you can't beat a short walk to Dosa, on nearby Valencia Street, specializing in South Indian cuisine. From naans and curries, to samosas and chutney, San Francisco and the surrounding environs are rife with Indian restaurants, so dig in!
    Washington DC: For a taste of India look no further than Little India in Adams Morgan. Kids can sample tandoori, chicken kabab, veggie korma and more, all from the kids menu. For shopping take a trip to India Sari Palace in Takoma Park, MD.

A Treasure Hunt through Little India helps kids think about another culture. After finding each of the following items, ask them to come up with a cultural equivalent from your family's culture. For example, Indian women get married in a brightly colored sari, while most American women are married in white gowns. 

  • A wedding sari (Langa) 
  • Salwar Kameez (clothing)
  • Bindi (decorative jewel worn between the eyes)
  • Ganeesha (Hindu God)
  • Tumeric and curry (Indian spices)
  • Lassi (Cold, furit-flavored drink)
  • Nan (Bread)
  • Biryani (Rice)
  • Sitar (Stringed Instrument)
  • Children can learn about global diversity through their palates. Eating ethnic food is like spending a few hours in another country, and getting kids to be brave about new food is easier than you think. Drop into your local Indian restaurant and try these kid-friendly options: naan (bread); tandoori chicken (mild) and biryani (rice).

 
Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.



Click here to see all our film picks from the Kids Off the Couch store at Amazon.com.

Click here to see all our book picks at the Kids Off the Couch store at Amazon.com.