Aardman Animations and Gurinder Chadha make Bollywood-inspired animated film

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Director Gurinder Chadha, who so memorably introduced Desi culture to a new generation of Western audiences with play it like Beckham nearly two decades ago, will direct a Bollywood-inspired musical for legendary British studio Aardman, by Variety.

The film, which will tell the story of an elephant from the state of Kerala, in southern India, who harbors the ‘impossible dream’ of becoming a Bollywood dancer, is written by Chadha and her husband / creative partner long-standing, Paul Mayeda Bergès.

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Image via Fox Searchlight Pictures

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Here is what Chadha said in a statement:

“Aardman is a great British national treasure. I am honored and delighted 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 genuine, joyful underdog stories about memorable characters – so this really is a perfect match.

Creative Director Aardman Peter Lord added:

“We are delighted to collaborate with Gurinder, a very great director whose beautiful, funny and warm storytelling we have long admired. His talent, combined with that of Aardman’s team, promises something new and extraordinary in the world of animation.

Although Aardman dabbled in computer animation, he first made a name for himself for his artisanal stop-motion techniques, shown in films such as Chicken coop, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Distant. Recently it released two features in the Shaun the sheep franchise, which is itself a spin-off of the Wallace and Gromit series.

Chadha, meanwhile, has garnered some of the best reviews of her career with her latest feature film, Blinded by the light, a coming-of-age comedy drama inspired by the journalist’s life Sarfraz Manzoor and his love for the music of Bruce springsteen. This marked a bit of a departure for Chadha, in that he moved from his usual portrayals of the Indian immigrant experience to that of a Pakistani migrant family in Margaret thatcherGreat Britain, although the themes – class conflict, racial tension and human desire to integrate – have been the ones that have fascinated her throughout her career.

“Bollywood”, of course, is a reductive term that refers only to the traditional Hindi film industry, based in the state of Maharashtra. Kerala, the state where Chadha’s elephant protagonist Bodhi came from, has its own thriving film industry. In a way, Chadha’s film also bridges the cultural divides in India.

Aardman will work with Indian voices, musicians and designers on the project. Described by the company as an “exuberant and warm musical,” the new film does not yet have a release date, but is in “advanced development”.

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