Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

Sanjeev’s new look at India

August 7, 2007

by Hannah Stephenson
Manchester Evening News
6/ 8/2007

WRITER, actor and comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar was lost for words when judging a Mrs India beauty pageant while filming his BBC2 series India With Sanjeev Bhaskar (BBC2, tonight, 9pm).

When a fellow judge asked a contestant how she felt about marital rape, Sanjeev looked on aghast, before being nudged by the same judge to ask a follow up question.

“The only thing I could think of was, ‘what’s your favourite animal?'” the creator of The Kumars At No. 42 recalls.

It was just one of a mass of memorable moments for Bhaskar, 43, as he visited India to make a documentary series as part of a BBC season marking the 60th anniversary of independence.

In a country with a population of 1.1bn, he was pretty chuffed to find that locals recognised him from his hit series The Kumars at No. 42. Fans were not backwards in coming forwards, he recalls.

“On two occasions somebody handed me a mobile phone and said, ‘Talk to my daughter – she’s a big fan’.”

Yet when the series – in which he starred as incompetent amateur chat show host Sanjeev Kumar – was first syndicated to Indian TV, he phoned a cousin to find out how it was doing. Not so well, he was told. It was only watched by about 40m people.

Bhaskar was born in Ealing, London, and grew up in the 70s above his parents’ launderette.

“As a child, I went to India about three or four times. It was starkly different to here. It felt like a poor country. My grandmother, who lived in Delhi, didn’t have running water all day, there were communal loos, she basically had two rooms and my widowed aunt and her three kids lived with her.”

But returning now he found a very different India – a new economic superpower with state-of-the-art technology and city whizzkids.

There is still a massive gap between the haves and the have nots, but people seem to accept it.

Abject poverty

“India is still a fatalistic country. So even though you have abject poverty living next door to unbelievable wealth, what you don’t have is an attitude from the poor where they spend all their time thinking about how they can break into the rich houses and nick all their stuff.

“They may wish they had that good fortune but they don’t begrudge it. Within the Hindu philosophy the poor person will think, let me be the best person I can be and then when I come back maybe I’ll have moved up a notch.”

When Bhaskar was filming, the Celebrity Big Brother furore involving Jade Goody’s comments about Shilpa Shetty kicked off.

“Surprisingly, there were no screaming headlines in India. It was a measured response. The primary one was, look, she’s getting £350,000 – what’s she complaining about? The second was, it’s a TV programme.

“I don’t think Jade is a racist. She was loud-mouthed and a bully and in a way has been made a scapegoat.”

But he was saddened by the image the show would give to Indians.

“I thought, suddenly they are getting this glimpse of the Asbo, yobby side of Britain. With the internet and reality programmes, that view of Britain as the land of fair play and good manners will be diluted.”

Filming of the documentary took him away from his home in London for around four months – and he didn’t realise how much he would miss wife Meera Syal and their son, Shaan, who is now 19 months old.

“I found it really difficult because Shaan was just under three months when I first went. In India, I had this little video of him on my mobile phone that I would look at every night before I went to bed.

“Fatherhood is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s incredible. I feel very privileged.”

For all the latest news from the world of television, check out Ian Wylie’s blog, The Life of Wylie .

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/entertainment/film_and_tv/s/1012/1012870_sanjeevs_new_look_at_india.html 

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