Last night Sudha and I were privileged to have been awarded a First Women Award in the category of Leisure and Tourism. One works and works and I must say these moments of recognition really mean something – Sarah Brown, the patron gave an inspiring opening speech acknowledging women who have been a force for change in their professional lives. And there were so many extraordinary women who have done extraordinary things in the ballroom of the Marriott Hotel last night.
In our acceptance speech, we talked about how we felt Tamasha has been a force for change – making interventions into the mainstream – how only ten years ago East is East, a story about a mixed race family growing up in Salford, was a first for the British stage. There was an audible gasp when Sudha told the audience that she was the first non-white actor to be cast in The Archers as Usha Gupta.
It’s moments like these when you feel so reassured that the work we are trying to do has a meaning far beyond our own careers.
Preparing now for first day of rehearsals on Monday for Bilquis Bibi – I never quite know what to do with myself. I look at the script feeling I need to do more preparation – but I hate being over-prepared, I prefer to take from what starts to happen in the rehearsal room – so it always feels like the calm before the storm – the anxiety before the thrill. There will be more online conversations and observations from the rehearsal room so watch this space.
Tamasha is pleased to welcome Ila Arun to the UK in the title role of The House of Bilquis Bibi. You may already know Ila from her husky voice on hits Choli Ke Peeche or Ringa Ringa, or from her role as Emperor Akbar’s wet nurse in Jodhaa Akbar. She’ll hit cinema screens in the UK later in the year in West is West (the sequel to East is East) in which she plays Mrs Khan No. 1 – pictured below. Photography by Ishika Mohan Motwane, courtesy of Assassin Films.
The most surprising tv moment of the last week was Nitin Ganatra bantering with LL Cool J about exposing his ‘brown buttocks’ on the Jonathan Ross show. He was on the show with Nina Wadia to discuss the controversial storyline of the muslim Masood family on Eastenders; the married son is gay.
Although I’m not a regular viewer of the soap, I was gratified to see Nina and Nitin on primetime tv discussing the portrayal of the Asian families and it struck me how times have changed since Eastenders first began. The Asian storylines seem have been unbelievable on the show, up til now. The Masood family seems to be chiming with audiences (I’m not a regular viewer myself but we have some die-hards in the team).
As Nitin said to JR, ‘We were carrying the baggage of the Asian families that haven’t quite worked’. Too right. So what’s new about this family and why is it working now? It’s certainly not been a lack of good actors, Sudha was in Eastenders and many other fine actors.
In the past the Asian family storylines were often marked by a timidity – the only Asian family in the square, were always carrying the heavy burden of representation. When the show first began there was generally ‘a token gay character’ or ‘Asian character’ – a gay muslim character would’ve been unthinkable. It seems Eastenders has caught up with society at large and realised the Asian families are characters too and given them a juicy plotline that isn’t one that fills the ‘cross culture’ or ‘generation gap’ cliché.
Ross was intent on knowing whether the fact of their own heritage as Indian (non-Muslims) affected their ability to portray Muslims. Can you imagine anyone asking Ian Mckellen if he’s able to play Gandalf straight although he’s a gay man in real life?
They handled that quite deftly and mentioned that actually none of the actors playing the Muslim family are Muslim in real life but joked ‘Don’t tell anyone, they might not believe the acting.’ And they explained that they have drawn on their own heritage of course, having grown up with muslim neighbours and being Asian was very important. Nina and Nitin joked about the possibility of a Muslim family taking over the Queen Vic – now that’s a storyline I’d like to see.
I had heard about this film and said to myself this is one film I definitely do not want to see, although I love the work of Michael Winterbottom. And then at the weekend, my husband and I suddenly had two hours to ourselves without the kids, so he rushed me off to Muswell Hill Odeon to see a film. I had forgotten the title, but within a few minutes I realised that I was about to watch the film I had not wanted to see.
Yes, it is gruesome and to some extent a bit empty at the end of the day as there is really no psychological examination of why someone commits these horrible crimes – and then the ending is just horrible and therefore no redemption in the film (when you just think there is going to be some sort of redeeming feature/narrative) .
But as always I was completely struck by Michael Winterbottom the filmmaker – he is such a superb craftsman. The circa 50’s detail is utterly extraordinary, the visual precision and beauty not only of the landscape but the period is arresting. But above all, Michael Winterbottom is a master with actors – those true , unpredictable, idiosyncratic, almost documentary-style performances are mesmerising. For anyone interested in how to work with the actor this is a must see!
I took my kids to see the film Streetdance at the weekend.
Can anyone tell me why there is a snow white English hero and heroine at the centre of the film? Pretty young Northern girl goes out with black boyfriend – he jumps ship and joins another crew, she falls in love with white ballet boy.
Didn’t the same thing happen with the BBC rendition of Andrea Levy’s Small Island?