I am going to analyze a novel written by Narinder Dhami, based on a screenplay he produced by Gurinder Chadha. The novel was published in 2002, and the plot takes place in London. The novel is about an Indian girl named Jesminder, who is willing heto sacrifice everything for her passion: Football. She meets difficulties concerning her culture when she is heading for her goal: To play football professionally.
There are seven main characters, Jesminder, her father, her mother, Tony, Pinky, Jules and Joe. Jesminder is the main character and the narrator, which means that we see the story through her eyes. Jesminder is a dreamer who does not care about he “feminine stuff”. There is a clear contrast between Jesminder and her sister Pinky. Pinky is portrayed as a pretty young woman who is going to get married, and all she can think about is her wedding and what clothes to wear. In this setting, the use of contrast has an emphatic function, because it emphasizes Jesminder’s “non-girly” personality.
Jesminder is an intelligent girl, who achieves excellent results at school, but she does not know what to do about her life. Her dad expects her to attend university and then become a solicitor, but that is not her dream. She does not know much about her future, but she knows for sure that she wants to play football. And she does. She plays football with Tony and some boys in the park whenever she has the opening. Tony is her best friend, and he is also close to her family.
One day, a “gora” named Jules appears in the park, and she wants Jesminder to join her team “Hounslow Harrier girls”, and also participate in a tournament. Jesminder accepts the invitation excitingly, even though she knows her parents would disagree with it. Therefore, she decides not to tell them. Jesminder’s mother is a strict woman who dislikes the thought of her playing football and showing off her bear legs. She wants her daughter to follow the Indian tradition and marry an Indian man. To marry a Muslim or a “gora” is not allowed. Jesminder’s coach is named Joe and he is a White Irish Briton. He has a serious knee injury, and Jesminder admires him because the injury does not stop him from coaching. Jesminder can not help herself from feeling envious when she notices that Jules has feelings for Joe. As Jesminder keeps playing football secretly, she falls in love with the game, and also with her coach, Joe, even though it contradicts her culture and her friendship with Jules. Conflicts and misunderstandings occur and increase, as they are getting closer to the end: The final of the tournament.
The novel is a cliché with a happy-ending, which is a stylistic device in itself. If you get to know the characters and you want things to be sorted out for them, you get a happy feeling when you read the last page, and that is most likely what the author wants to accomplish.
Jesminder behaves and talks to her parents politely, and when she meets family members, she greets them in a traditional Indian way. When she hangs out with her friends, she speaks slang and behaves, to some extend, rougher. Slang words such as “bloody”, “bloke” and “fella” (fellow) are employed. This indicates they are normal teenagers, and the use of words and the plot in itself mainly appeals to teenagers. The word “gora” is used as an invective and it is a designation of white-skinned people. In this novel, the Indian people have prejudices against the English people, and when they meet an English person, they tag them as “a gora”, which is a negatively loaded word.
The title can be interpreted in many ways, depending on the reader. Of course most people would say the title is “bend it like Beckham” because Jesminder’s idol is David Beckham, who is famous for bending the ball into the net. You can also see it this way: Beckham bends the ball into the net, and Jesminder bends the rules to reach her goal.
By reading this book, I have become more aware about disparities between the Indian and the West-European culture. I personally believe the theme/message in the book is to follow your dreams, even though you have to let someone or something down.