Bend It Like Beckham wasn’t supposed to have a 12A rating – and it was only many years later that director Gurinder Chadha discovered why it didn’t get a PG in the UK.
Recently, director Gurinder Chadha released a film that she herself has admitted is a little bit of a companion piece to her breakthrough feature. The terrific Blinded By The Light did okay business at the box office over the summer, although not as much as it deserved. But also, not as much as 2002’s Bend It Like Beckham, which became a little bit of a yardstick for the movie.
I revisited Bend It Like Beckham recently, introducing the film to my son and daughter. But not before I did a bit of checking. My brain played a little bit of a trick on me, and I’d assumed the film was a PG certificate. But it’s not. To this day, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has the film marked as a 12A certificate.
The advice given by the board is that it earned its 12A for “moderate language and sexual references”, although it seemed really quite tame. The film has a core of steel of course, and under the cloak of mainstream, Chadha fashions a film that has much to say whilst thoroughly entertaining it audience.
Yet I was curious just why the 12A still stood, not least in an era where the BBFC has been softening certificates for some older films as they get resubmitted.
“I was always irritated with Bend It Like Beckham”, admits Chadha, when I asked her about its rating. She always tries to go for the biggest audience possible for her films, a deliberate choice given the serious conversations she wants to have with them.
Eventually, she discovered just why the film got a 12 rating in cinemas, and a 12A for its subsequent home formats releases.
“When I did a bit of ADR”, she said, “I put a Punjabi swearword in”. What happened next was a moment of sheer bad luck. “There was a woman at the classification board who spoke Punjabi”, Chadha laughs, “and that’s why it got a 12”.
Not that cinemas at the time particularly observed the rating. “I remember on the Tottenham Court Road they were letting families in”, Chadha recalls. But the frustration remains about the 12, they must have dissuaded some of the target audience from giving the film a go. “Had I know it was that, I would have taken it out”, she admitted.
And there you have it. Bend It Like Beckham is, of course, available on DVD and streaming services. Make sure you’re 12 or over if you want to watch it though. That, or try not to learn any Punjabi swearwords…
Come and see Bend It Like Beckham back on the big screen at Northampton Filmhouse: Sunday 29th September, with a special Film Stories intro.
More details here: https://www.northamptonfilmhouse.com/films/filmstorieslive/
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