Doctor Who star Sacha Dhawan tackles mental health in lockdown in powerful new short film

'Yash Gill's Power Half Hour' is a bittersweet monologue delivered by Dhawan and written by Nikesh Shukla.

Yash Gill's Power Half-Hour

Doctor Who actor Sacha Dhawan has produced a new short film, made entirely in lockdown, in collaboration with writer Nikesh Shukla and director Milli Bhatia.

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‘Yash Gill’s Power Half Hour’ takes the form of a powerful monologue and sees Dhawan play the title character, a stand-up comedian who is experimenting with his first livestream.

The short – produced as part of Danusia Samal’s Virtual Collaborators project, which sees creatives coming together to produce new works while in lockdown – explores themes of grief, healing and conversations around mental health in the South Asian community.

“As someone who suffers from mental health myself, I couldn’t be more proud of this work,” Dhawan said. “I made a decision last year to be more open about my mental health, and encourage others like me, particularly young men, that it’s OK to talk. And there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”

Dhawan, Shukla and Bhatia worked together to come up with the concept of a comedian suddenly lacking an audience, being forced to face an uncomfortable silence and sit with his own feelings.

“Nikesh has tapped into something so pertinent with Yash,” said director Bhatia. “He’s both the child of immigrants and the sad clown archetype, he’s constantly mask switching and I think a lot of us can relate to that.”

Nikesh Shukla
Nikesh Shukla
Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

Novelist and screenwriter Shukla described ‘Yash Gill’s Power Half Hour’ as “a true collaboration” between himself and the two other artists involved, explaining, “I didn’t write a script to deliver to Milli to direct Sacha to perform in. We worked together and responded to each other as if we were a jazz band all playing off each other, holding up our end of the sound.

“Not being able to be in the same room as people you’re working with has been hard and isolating, so the chance to work on something so relevant to our times has been great.”

Other creatives involved in the Virtual Collaborators series include Bodyguard actress Anjli Mohindra, who has written ‘The People Under the Moon’ starring Bohemian Rhapsody actor Gwilym Lee, and Call the Midwife’s Ben Caplan, who performs ‘It Is Quiet Now’.

A full list of the Virtual Collaborators projects – explore different aspects of life during the COVID-19 pandemic – and the creatives involved can be found at VirtualCollaborators.co.uk.

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