Meera Syal: the portrayal of Asians on British TV has ‘gone backwards’

The Goodness Gracious Me star says TV is currently experiencing "a conservative climate with lots of period pieces and lots of nostalgia" at the expense of better representation

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In past years the BBC might have given us Citizen Khan and Romesh Ranganathan’s Asian Provocateur, but Goodness Gracious Me actress Meera Syal has said Asian representation on TV has moved in the wrong direction.

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Speaking in the latest issue of the Radio Times, The Kumars at No 42 star said that when it comes to TV series telling stories about the experience of being Asian in Britain, “I think we’ve slightly gone backwards”.

“Some of the stuff I’d want to have on TV wouldn’t get on at the moment,” she added, explaining that when South Asians are depicted in UK dramas, it’s often within a negative context. “It’s a conservative climate with lots of period pieces and lots of nostalgia. When people think of stuff with South Asians in, it tends to be programmes like the upcoming Rochdale abuse drama [Three Girls, BBC1].”

She continued: “Of course it’s not like those things don’t happen, but if that’s all that TV is doing, it looks like that’s the only thing Asians do. It’s a problem. If there were five or six or seven shows on TV featuring South Asians, then absolutely Rochdale is a worthy subject to investigate – but it’s about context. We should also be thinking about stories that just show us as people, not issues.” 

Syal is set to feature in BBC Radio 2 comedy series Parental Guidance, alongside comedian Romesh Ranganathan and Sherlock star Amanda Abbington, beginning on Monday 13 March. 

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Read the full interview with Meera Syal in this week’s Radio Times magazine, available in shops and on the Apple Newsstand from Tuesday 7th March

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