It’s not hard to find documentaries made by English people about India, or its cities and religions. Now, thanks to the British Film Institute, viewers can get a glimpse of a rare Hindi language film about life in London as seen through the eyes of an Indian filmmaker.

Simply titled “London Mein Bharat” — or “India in London” — the 20 minute film takes viewers on a journey into the West London suburb of Southall. Southall was then (and still remains) a South Asian enclave in the city.

Directed by Vinod Pande, the film was created at a time when South Asians in the United Kingdom rarely received media attention. “The London of the 1960s and ’70s was deeply insular,” Pande noted in an interview with Harmony India. Pande had arrived in the city in 1966 from Uttar Pradesh after receiving an employment voucher.

The BFI notes that the film presents a distinctive and sometimes surprising view of 70s London. “It’s an insightful take on an increasingly multicultural city – at a time when, the commentary tells us, the capital’s Indian population numbered some 150,000, with another 300,000 elsewhere in the UK,” the BFI’s description of the film reads.

The film showcases several of those Indians as they shop, walk about town and generally go about their day. “Although the native English are in the majority in Southall, nevertheless in some parts of the suburb, entire localities are inhabited by Indians or other foreign nationals,” the film’s narrator notes.

“The average Britisher was pretty rabid in his relationship with non-whites from the colonies. By the mid-’70s though, the scenario changed,” director Pande said. “The vibrant Indian immigrant community of Southall caught everybody’s eyes. In 1971, I made my first documentary, ‘London Mein Bharat,’ on them.”

But “London Mein Bharat” did not lead to immediate success for Pande, who recalls that he was essentially unemployed upon finishing it. He would go on to work on several advertising campaigns and would work on radio plays for All India Radio and the BBC in addition to acting in several films.

Readers based in the United Kingdom can view “London Mein Bharat” in its entirety on the British Film Institute’s website.


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