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The Evolution of South Asian Women in British Film and TV


The Evolution of South Asian Women in British Film and TV


What started in 1996 as a Radio 4 show, “Goodness Gracious Me” had, by 1998, moved to the screen and became a cult comedy sketch show for BBC Two.

With a core ensemble of four British Asian comics — Sanjeev Bhaskar, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Syal, and Nina Wadia — the show was a compilation of sketches that used comedy to subvert stereotypes of Indians. Classic sketches include “Going for an English,” in which a group of Indian friends drunkenly go out to eat English food on a Friday night, asking for the blandest thing on the menu and mispronouncing the waiter’s name.

In their female-focused skits, such as the “Competitive Mothers” sketch, Wadia and Syal play caricatures of Indian women, bragging about their sons’ accomplishments to other mothers, but using British dirty humour in their execution. In another recurring sketch, their characters Meena and Beena play on the stereotypes of second-generation immigrants: they are much more Westernised in their thinking, but are still restricted, often by their Asian parents.

The show was the first mainstream South Asian comedy show in the UK, and set the precedent for BBC shows that followed in the years to come. The creative team behind it would go on to launch another iconic British Asian TV show, “The Kumars at No. 42,” which saw a British Indian family host a live chat show from their living room alongside an assortment of celebrity guests.


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