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Chadha brews culture stew with pic

Director's slate includes cross-cultural projects

Tapping into “Slumdog Millionaire’s” Indian spice, Brit helmer Gurinder Chadha is putting together a slate of cross-cultural projects fusing Asian and Western sensibilities.

First up is “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife,” which the helmer describes as “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” meets “Shaun of the Dead.”

Story follows a British-Asian mother whose obsession to marry off her daughter comically leads to serial murder.

Chadha has tapped Indian actress Shabana Azmi (“Fire”) for a leading role along with newcomer Goldy Notay, Sanjeev Bhaskar (“The Kumars at No. 42”), Shaheen Khan (“Bend It Like Beckham”) and Sendhil Ramamurthy (“Heroes”).

Pic is a co-production from Chadha’s own shingle, Bend It Films; the Indian Film Co., which is listed on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market; and Indian film shingle Studio 18.

The Indian Film Co. and Studio 18 stepped in as financing partners after the project’s funding fell apart last year in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, which directly affected one of Chadha’s original co-producing partners.

“The day after we met the guys from Studio 18, they told us they were in,” Chadha told Daily Variety. “It’s an interesting combination we have now with Indian equity, the U.K. tax credit and a French bank cash flowing the pre-sales.”

Chadha is co-writing and producing the pic with husband Paul Berges. Lensing begins in the U.K. in April.

The two previously collaborated on Chadha’s 2002 breakout hit “Bend It Like Beckham,” which remains the third-highest grossing U.K. indie film with a cume of $18.5 million.

The husband-and-wife team also worked together on Chadha’s 2004 Aishwarya Rai starrer “Bride and Prejudice” as well as last year’s “Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.”

Latter pic has been a solid hit at the U.K. box office, bringing in $10 million to date.

HanWay Films is handling international sales for “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife,” which Chadha aims to be the first in a series of films that comically mine Indian-Anglo relations.

She is developing an additional two projects set in India and another set in Blighty.

“Two of the films will be written by other people while Paul and I are writing the other two scripts ourselves,” Chadha said. “All of them will be set against the backdrop of people who have moved from one place to another, with the comedy coming from the different expectations of one generation set against another generation.”

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