More Asians on British TV

IN Media Practice | 13/10/2005
Gupta and his peers have had to negotiate a long and winding road to reach their current heights.



Indo-Asian News Service


London, Oct 6 (IANS) Asians have long been stereotyped as doctors, shopkeepers or accountants in Britain, but now many are taking up important positions in the television industry. 

Among the several prominent Asian origin television personalities in Britain is Anil Gupta, who was executive producer of the popular serial "The Office". He was also the producer of the crossover comedy "Goodness Gracious Me". He is now producing another popular comedy with Asian actors such as Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar, "The Kumars at No 42", now in its sixth series. 

Hardeep Singh Kohli wrote, directed and acted in Channel 4`s recent comedy "Meet the Magoons", while Nitin Ganatra starred in the series, and before that in Gurinder Chadha`s film "Bride and Prejudice". Saurabh Kakkar was appointed head of "Comedy for Granada" last year. Gupta`s producer for "The Office" was Iranian origin Ash Atalla. 

According to Sunny Hundal, editor of the Asians in Media magazine, several Asian actors are breaking what is called a "glass ceiling" - a level, beyond which Asians do not rise in different professions. 

Gupta explains that he and his peers have had to negotiate a long and winding road to reach their current heights. Stereotyping, he says, has dogged him for much of his career, and it still makes things difficult. "People think - `if we cast an Asian person, we have to do the whole race thing` - but I would ask why you have to do that. If it`s not written in the script, then why?" 

Writing in The Independent, Hundal says that Gupta is unhappy with the way TV executives treat Asian producers, writers and actors. After the success of "Goodness Gracious Me", he passed on the chance to produce The "Kumars..". "I did not want to do it because I didn`t want to be the guy who just did the Asian thing," he says. 

It might sound as if he is afraid of associating with his ethnic roots, but Gupta`s sentiments are the product of his experience of the television industry that considered that Asians exist only at society`s margins. 

"I was really furious that they would not put the cast of `Goodness Gracious Me` on the front cover of Radio Times. The bottom line was that they did not want to put brown people on the front cover because they thought their audience was a bit racist," Gupta says. 

"When they first commissioned GGM, it was in a graveyard slot. They were very surprised when it made the crossover to a wider audience. The `Kumars..` is on BBC1 on its sixth series. That should have been on BBC1 from the second or third series. It`s not an Asian show, it has a great crossover appeal." 

The London Metropolitan University is carrying out a two-year research project to examine the barriers to progress for ethnic minority workers in broadcasting and to produce a series of recommendations for action.

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