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Interview: Tannishtha Chatterjee and Sarah Gavron of ‘Brick Lane’

posted by Nell Minow

Sarah Gavron is the director and Tannishtha Chatterjee is the star of the new British film “Brick Lane,” based on the best-selling novel by Monica Ali. While the book covers three decades in the life of its heroine Nazneen, a Bangladeshi girl who comes to London for an arranged marriage, the movie shows us just one transitional year. I spoke with Gavron and Chatterjee in Washington D.C.

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In the US, everyone but the Native Americans is very aware of his connection to the immigrant experience, though that does not necessarily translate into being welcoming of newcomers. How is it different in the UK, which had a very homogeneous and colonialist way of looking at the world for so long?

SG: London is now a fascinating place to live because it has so many cultures, even if you’re a born and bred Londoner, you’re growing up around people who have been displaced, so you get it once removed. Sometimes you have to wait quite a long time to hear English being spoken.

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Naznnen is homesick for much of the movie and yet when she has a chance to go back, she does not. Why not?

TC: There is an image she has of Bangladesh, but that Bangladesh is gone, it’s changed. The image they have in their minds is not what it was.

Do women and men find different challenges in navigating a path between assimilation and identity?

TC: In certain ways yes, especially women like Nazneen who are homemakers and don’t have an outlet outside their home or make friends through work or get to know the culture from outside. Creating a home is a bit claustrophobic because they don’t connect to anyone outside. Men in some ways have a connection but in other ways face the harsh reality of the outer world, and feel more like an outsider. Nazneen does not even know their world.

  • Janet

    A friend and I saw the movie on Sunday and loved it. We thought she stayed in England for the sake of her girls who would never have to agree to an arranged marriage or wear a head covering as many Muslem women do.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks so much for writing, Janet! And I agree that about her decision. She realized that England was their home.

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