Micro-budget quirky indie British South Asian romcom bursts into mainstream national chains…
MAKING any sort of independent feature film is a major achievement and then getting your film into mainstream cinemas is a further feat.
But that’s exactly what’s happened with the film, ‘Little English’
Currently screening up and down the land – you can see it in selected cinemas in Cineworld and Vue.
Dominique ‘Dom’ Unsworth MBE, co-producer and Pravesh Kumar MBE, the writer-director, are the prime movers behind the independent feature, which has gone from a world premiere screening at the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) at the BFI Southbank last summer and onto our cinema screens this Spring. It opened on Friday, March 17 in some 40 locations and more continue to be added, almost daily.
A tale about a spunky, young Punjabi woman, Simmy (Rameet Rauli) who comes over from India to marry a British-born guy – Raj (Simon Rivers) whom she has never met and then discovers has gone absent and is subsequently kept virtually captive in her new in-laws house and without a mobile phone, makes for good comedy drama. With a cast that includes established names such as Ameet Chana who is married to Raj’s sister Mindy (Goldy Notay) and Madhav Sharma playing the grandad character Bauji and Seema Bowri as mum Gurbaksh – there are a host of familiar names to help sell the film.
The two leads are relatively new – Rauli, and Viraj Juneja – as Raj’s wayward and troubled brother Harry – have growing fan bases, especially since the film released.
But made on a micro-budget as described by Unsworth – and paying everyone including people straight off the unemployment line to get experience in the business of making films, means the sight of cinemas up and down the country screening ‘Little English’ is also thrilling and exciting – not just for the filmmakers, but for a community which craves to see largely British-born brown folks telling essentially British stories on the big screen.
“It’s really difficult film to sell to distributors” said Unsworth, who runs Resource Productions, which has much experience of working with short form filmmakers. The other co-producers of this film are Lesley-Anne Macfarlane and Andrew St. Maur.
“We know how the short film market works and getting those films into festivals and markets – but this was our first feature ever – both Pravesh and myself have been wanting to do this for years,” continued Unsworth to acv.
‘Little English’ is adapted from a play that Kumar wrote and produced as artistic director of one of Britain’s leading specialist theatre companies, Rifco, based at Watford Palace Theatre. The story played to packed theatres in 2007 and has been adapted and contemporised for today’s big screen.
Unsworth said the total cash budget was under £500,000. “Everyone got paid and then we got a lot of support in kind from film companies for equipment and things like that – the actual budget of putting ‘Little English’ together is about £1.2 million.”
Resource Productions was able to source an audience development fund money from the British Film Industry (BFI).
“We got £40,000 and that allowed us work with a specialist sales agent who was able to talk to the big chain cinemas.”
All along the film had come up against a common refrain – it’s good, but we don’t know how to market this or make money on it, Unsworth opined.
“There are distribution companies that know how to work with independent films – either the arthouse market or companies that distribute Indian language films coming out of India but ours does not fit into either.
“Both groups told us they didn’t know how to sell or market this film and some cinema managers who liked the film and wanted to screen it came up against bureaucracy and then declined.”
It looked like ‘Little English’ was set for a travelling roadshow of one-off screenings and Q&As and a special screening in Slough, Berkshire, where it was shot.
“The gamechanger was the BFI money and us working with a specialist agent – Aneet Nijjar.”
She helped convince cinema chains the film was worth taking on in areas where there are Asian communities.
“It’s amazing to have got our film into Cineworld and Vue and we’re still doing lots of Q&As and the last one scheduled is on April 26,” Unsworth told us last week.
‘Little English’ is out in selected cinemas in the UK now –
For tickets see tab https://littleenglishfilm.com/
We covered the launch of ‘Little English’ at LIFF and its world premiere – and it was one of the best red carpets we’ve done interviews on in recent memory – so much energy!
As well as the cast and crew, there were other guests such as film director Gurinder Chadha and music star Sonna Rele. There are also post-viewing comments from the audience in our video – including Chadha’s verdict – subscribe to our Youtube channel for more –
We also attended a recent screening in London and it was another fun event! Pravesh Kumar had something important to say about why people should turn out in numbers to support ‘Little English’.
Quirky romcom has a big heart! (Review)
IF YOU DON’T love Simmy (Rameet Rauli) by the end, you’re either heartless or irritated by romcoms generally.
This isn’t your conventional boy meets girl, fall in love and then dance around the Berkshire countryside – lovely though it is. No.
Pravesh Kumar’s first film has some excellent moments and there is something thrilling and brilliant about seeing a British Asian story being given the big screen treatment.
Simmy is thankfully not your stereotypical mild and meek girl over from the Punjab to do the needful with a British Punjabi guy and live ever happily after in married bliss.
Her prospective fiancée, Raj (Simon Rivers) is nowhere to be seen when Simmy arrives in Slough to prep for the big day.
Without Raj, a family already in some disarray and patriarch Bauji (Madhav Sharma) in gentle mental decline, no one knows what to do except the fearsome matriarch Gurbaksh (Seema Bowri).
There are lots of themes this film covers from family pride, duty, dementia, racism and ageing – but it is all done in a naturalistic way and opens other interesting sub-plots to the main one of where is Raj and will he deliver on his duty as the oldeest son and make the marriage?
We couldn’t possibly tell you. Ler’s say, he has secrets.
Kumar handles his young talented leads well – Rauli is terrific as the Punjabi girl who isn’t prepared to give up on her own dreams and it’s her perspective that drives this film forward successfully. Juneja is an excellent foil – distanced and troubled after a spell inside, he really doesn’t know what is going in his family and his relationship with his intensely driven mother is awkward and well-drawn.
Despite the slightly dark themes, this remains a comedy drama all the family can watch and while there are clearly budget limitations, it is worth your time and money – not least because so few films of this type make it to the big screen on home turf and it’s entertaining and appealing.
It will be interesting to see how Kumar and the young cast navigate their exciting film careers after this and what it leads to in the future…we are watching and cheering!
ACV rating: ****