Gurinder Chadha's Perfect Day in London

The director of the new musical, "Bend It Like Beckham", tells us what makes a perfect day

British-Indian Gurinder Chadha is the director of films including "Bhaji On The Beach" and "Bride And Prejudice." Her 2002 film, "Bend it Like Beckham," is a new West End musical, opening on May 15 at the Phoenix Theatre.

What time would you wake up?

I’d wake the same time as my children, about 8 o’clock. I would do an aerobics walk up Primrose Hill, near where I live. The other day I was at the top of the hill listening to the "Bend It Like Beckham" soundtrack, and I was doing Bhangra dancing by myself. That, to me, is the perfect start to the day.

View of London from the top of Primrose Hill, UK
The top of Primrose Hill is the perfect place for walks, views—and bhangra (©Savoilic/iStock/Thinkstock)

What's your favourite place to shop?

I love Borough Market for food, and Camden Market for pottering about and not knowing what you’re going to find. I also like the shops along Long Acre in Covent Garden.

Stalls at Camden Market, London, UK
Camden Market is a great place to spot something quirky (©Stringer/Gerry Images/Thinkstock)

What landmarks do you like?

My favourite view of London is from Westminster Bridge and Waterloo Bridge at night—which is the quintessential image of London. When I die I would like my ashes to be thrown over one of those bridges into the water. I love the view from the top of Primrose Hill, from where you see the Post Office Tower, St Paul's Cathedral and The Shard. 

What are your favourite museums and galleries?

I like art on show at the National Portrait Gallery. I enjoy having meetings at RIBA—I was there recently discussing my Partition movie. After we had lunch and our meeting, it’s a very quiet place. The building is architecturally amazing, and they always have interesting exhibitions.

Roof terrace at RIBA headquarters, London, UK
The terrace at RIBA is perfect for lunch (©RIBA)

Where would you have tea, and who would be your ideal guest?

If I was going to have tea with the Queen (who I met when I got my OBE) I’d take her to Southall. I’d order samosas and gulgappa to show her another side to her Kingdom.

What's your ideal entertainment?

I would have said cinema, but since working on my own musical I am enjoying going to every single musical in the West End. Anything that opens, I go. For me, it’s been the most amazing journey into a different world.

What show would you recommend?

The best musical in the West End is "Billy Elliot," by far. This made me decide to do "Bend It Like Beckham." I thought if I could do something touching and moving like that—well I’m halfway there.

Where do you like to eat out?

Food at top Chinese restaurant, Hakkasan, London, UK
Tempting Chinese cuisine at Hakkasan (Courtesy Hakkasan)

When people say to me, 'You choose', I always say Hakkasan. It is a bit pricey; that’s why it’s good if someone else pays! I like New World in Chinatown, too, especially their traditional dim sum carts.

What place holds a special memory for you?

Southall is where the pulse of my heart is. It’s only 20 minutes from Paddington, but it’s a whole new world with everything from Punjab in the middle of London. I sometimes go to the Gurdawara (Sikh temple) on Havlock Road, with its striking golden dome. I like sitting quietly and saying a prayer. It’s a culturally rich environment that feeds my creativity.

Southall, a lively neighbourhood in London, UK
The busy shops of Southall are always close to Gurinder's heart (© Soula Zavacopoulos)

What makes London stand out from the rest of the world?

For someone who lives here, and lives and breathes the air, I know I can go out every night of the week and do something totally different. That’s what makes London the only city I could live in. When I see tourists walking around, I warm towards them. It’s incredibly cosmopolitan and outward looking.

Why should we watch "Bend It Like Beckham"?

It will be a chance to see something different. It gives you a flavour of Britain for the last 20-odd years, through my eyes and my world as a British Asian. It's a one-off!

See "Bend It Like Beckham" at Phoenix Theatre from 15 May. 

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