Exclusive case study: Pravesh Kumar on filming Little English in Slough

The director speaks to KFTV about putting together his big screen debut, including getting crowdfunding and support from Pinewood Studios

With over 10 years experience as a UK-based theatre director (There’s Something About Simmy, Bollywood: Yet Another Love Story) and an award nominee for his short film Gods on Mountains, Pravesh Kumar speaks to KFTV about making the transition to direct his first feature film, Little English, which premieres at this year's BFI’s London Indian Film Festival (LIFF, 23 June - 3 July).

Kumar’s feature length romantic comedy centres on a dysfunctional British Asian family in their terraced suburban home of Slough, UK. Newly arrived from India, Simmy (Rameet Rauli) ties the knot with a noncommittal Raj - who absconds on their wedding night - leaving Simmy seemingly imprisoned by her new mother-in-law to keep up appearances. Aided by a grandad and her wayward new brother-in-law Harry (Viraj Juneja), Simmy plans her escape against the backdrop of traditional Indian ideologies.

Alongside newcomers Rauli and Juneja, the comedy stars Ameet Chana (Bend it Like Beckham), Seema Bowri (ITV’s The Bill) and Golday Notay (It’s a Wonderful Afterlife) in supporting roles.

With a budget of around £1m the film was produced by Slough-based Resource Productions and filmed with the support of partners including HOME Slough and Rifco Theatre Company (Arts Council England), UnLtd. The Rothschild Foundation also invested through the accompanying Kickstart into Film programme for those made unemployed through COVID.

Industry partners also provided support, including indie kit hire company ZX Records who acted as executive producers, alongside light rental company MBSE UK, camera rental outfit VMI, post production service provider Digital Orchard and Pinewood Studios.

Resource Productions’ Dominique Unsworth (A Place to Stay, Lehenga) served as producer on Little English and instead of taking the investor route to fund the film, she recruited latent talent with very little experience — providing a genuine opportunity for people in and around Slough.

Money was raised through the government’s Kickstarter Scheme and through a big donation from the Rothschild Foundation - a charity supporting arts and heritage, as well as money through crowd funding.

“It was given, rather than invested,” said Kumar. “So this film has been made on a shoestring budget by donation, giving, and a government fund which is about developing people’s skills.”

As a complimentary service, Pinewood Studios also provided free screeners for the film during the preview window, as affiliated support for Resource Productions.

Kumar also noted how the film was only able come to fruition with a few financial sacrifices from [the crew’s] own pocket. “Something we don’t talk about when making a film like this is the subsidy also comes from the creatives. We all took much lower fees than we normally would, everything was on a micro-budget. So we all did it for the love of making the work,” he said.

The British-made production also qualified for the UK Film Tax Relief, which the producers are exploring further for more incentives following its recent premiere at LIFF.

On the filming front, Little English is very much set in Slough, and it helped that both the writer-director and producer are based there.

“I wanted to talk about that place. Like any small town, there’s a lot of concrete but there’s a beautiful South Asian community. And this story, this film is set in and around that community.

Berkshire Film Office helped secure all of the locations for production and Slough Borough Council were constantly on side. “In a way, they supported the film as well, by letting us use their locations [after applying for a permit months in advance], says Kumar.

“There were no firm no’s because we knew the process. Dominique has made films in and around that area before — she knew the structure and she knew how long it takes.”

The entire cast was also London-based - despite Rauli’s Simmy being a Punjab native - which was a deliberate decision on the director’s part.

“We made a decision very early on to have only a British-South Asian cast. [Rauli’s] Punjabi is so good; nobody could tell she was from Southall — which is almost Punjab anyway.”

Kumar is now planning country-wide theatrical distribution of his film, in the hopes that audiences can enjoy an extended run on the big screen before it’s available on [unconfirmed] streaming platforms.

“Our work with Little English is far from finished,” he said. “Now that the festival tour is over we are seeking wider, mainstream distribution so that the film can be seen and enjoyed at cinemas across the country.” 

Aside from screen work, Kumar is also gearing up to showcase his latest Rifco theatre stage production titled Glitterball

Exclusive case study: Pravesh Kumar on filming Little English in Slough
Credit: Pravesh Kumar, Rifco Theatre Company
Exclusive case study: Pravesh Kumar on filming Little English in Slough
Credit: Pravesh Kumar, Rifco Theatre Company

With over 10 years experience as a UK-based theatre director (There’s Something About Simmy, Bollywood: Yet Another Love Story) and an award nominee for his short film Gods on Mountains, Pravesh Kumar speaks to KFTV about making the transition to direct his first feature film, Little English, which premieres at this year's BFI’s London Indian Film Festival (LIFF, 23 June - 3 July).

Kumar’s feature length romantic comedy centres on a dysfunctional British Asian family in their terraced suburban home of Slough, UK. Newly arrived from India, Simmy (Rameet Rauli) ties the knot with a noncommittal Raj - who absconds on their wedding night - leaving Simmy seemingly imprisoned by her new mother-in-law to keep up appearances. Aided by a grandad and her wayward new brother-in-law Harry (Viraj Juneja), Simmy plans her escape against the backdrop of traditional Indian ideologies.

Alongside newcomers Rauli and Juneja, the comedy stars Ameet Chana (Bend it Like Beckham), Seema Bowri (ITV’s The Bill) and Golday Notay (It’s a Wonderful Afterlife) in supporting roles.

With a budget of around £1m the film was produced by Slough-based Resource Productions and filmed with the support of partners including HOME Slough and Rifco Theatre Company (Arts Council England), UnLtd. The Rothschild Foundation also invested through the accompanying Kickstart into Film programme for those made unemployed through COVID.

Industry partners also provided support, including indie kit hire company ZX Records who acted as executive producers, alongside light rental company MBSE UK, camera rental outfit VMI, post production service provider Digital Orchard and Pinewood Studios.

Resource Productions’ Dominique Unsworth (A Place to Stay, Lehenga) served as producer on Little English and instead of taking the investor route to fund the film, she recruited latent talent with very little experience — providing a genuine opportunity for people in and around Slough.

Money was raised through the government’s Kickstarter Scheme and through a big donation from the Rothschild Foundation - a charity supporting arts and heritage, as well as money through crowd funding.

“It was given, rather than invested,” said Kumar. “So this film has been made on a shoestring budget by donation, giving, and a government fund which is about developing people’s skills.”

As a complimentary service, Pinewood Studios also provided free screeners for the film during the preview window, as affiliated support for Resource Productions.

Kumar also noted how the film was only able come to fruition with a few financial sacrifices from [the crew’s] own pocket. “Something we don’t talk about when making a film like this is the subsidy also comes from the creatives. We all took much lower fees than we normally would, everything was on a micro-budget. So we all did it for the love of making the work,” he said.

The British-made production also qualified for the UK Film Tax Relief, which the producers are exploring further for more incentives following its recent premiere at LIFF.

On the filming front, Little English is very much set in Slough, and it helped that both the writer-director and producer are based there.

“I wanted to talk about that place. Like any small town, there’s a lot of concrete but there’s a beautiful South Asian community. And this story, this film is set in and around that community.

Berkshire Film Office helped secure all of the locations for production and Slough Borough Council were constantly on side. “In a way, they supported the film as well, by letting us use their locations [after applying for a permit months in advance], says Kumar.

“There were no firm no’s because we knew the process. Dominique has made films in and around that area before — she knew the structure and she knew how long it takes.”

The entire cast was also London-based - despite Rauli’s Simmy being a Punjab native - which was a deliberate decision on the director’s part.

“We made a decision very early on to have only a British-South Asian cast. [Rauli’s] Punjabi is so good; nobody could tell she was from Southall — which is almost Punjab anyway.”

Kumar is now planning country-wide theatrical distribution of his film, in the hopes that audiences can enjoy an extended run on the big screen before it’s available on [unconfirmed] streaming platforms.

“Our work with Little English is far from finished,” he said. “Now that the festival tour is over we are seeking wider, mainstream distribution so that the film can be seen and enjoyed at cinemas across the country.” 

Aside from screen work, Kumar is also gearing up to showcase his latest Rifco theatre stage production titled Glitterball

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