Taking Bollywood from the East to the East End may not seem like a spectacularly ambitious idea, but it reaps wonderful dividends in this sweet-natured film about star-crossed lovers Geena (Preeya Kalidas) and Jay (James McAvoy), caught between two cultures and two families.
Described as West Side Story meets Romeo and Juliet with bindis, director Jeremy Wooding's feature-length follow up to his award-winning short film Sari and Trainers takes its inspiration from the colourful song-and-dance glamour of Bollywood musicals, but with added British-Asian "Innit?" appeal.
After a chance encounter with West Country lad Jay, business management student, and part-time sari shop worker, Geena realises that her life's lacking the sparkle of the Bollywood movies she loves. Ditching her boyfriend Dilip (Ronny Jhutti), Geena falls head over heels in love with Jay, but with two disapproving families to deal with, the course of true love doesn't look set to run smooth.
With a host of sequences capturing the escapist, fantastical nature of Bollywood movies, Wooding's film is an unexpectedly successful cross-fertilisation of down at heel East London chic and Asian musicals, with Bollywood-style musical routines coming magically alive in the most unlikely of places, from Leadenhall market to the local multiplex.
Partly that's because Klidas (the lead actress in the Bollywood Dreams stage musical) and McAvoy make such a sweet couple. But it's also because the film manages to discover exactly the right median between Bollywood and British-Asian culture, creating a perfect mix of the exotic and the familiar that's enjoyably upbeat.
It's great to see a British film with such a surfeit of vibrancy and life, and a complete disregard for all the unambitious conventions that have come to plague recent home-grown cinema. Best of all, it's nice to see that bringing Bollywood to the West doesn't always have to result in something as uninspired as The Guru.
Bollywood Queen is released in UK cinemas on Friday 17th October 2003.