Sanjeev Bhaskar, who starred in Goodness Gracious Me with his wife Meera Syal, has enjoyed a varied career as a stage and screen actor, writer and producer.
He was awarded an OBE in the 2006 Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for his services to drama.
Bhaskar began writing monologues and sketches as a hobby while working as a marketing manager, before he started performing routines in comedy clubs.
With this year being the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, how significant has the Indian and Pakistani contribution to the arts in Britain been?
It has contributed hugely to the British identity. The most obvious contribution has been in food but there are many people from the subcontinent who have been involved behind the scenes in music, in particular. I don’t think Goodness Gracious Me could have come out of any Asian expat community other than in the UK.
Are we going to see Goodness Gracious Me return any time soon?
I’m not sure about soon but hopefully we will all get together again to do something.
Do you have any projects planned with Meera (Syal) in the near future?
Not in the near future, though we are always looking out for ideas.
You recently made the transition from comedy to drama. What was the biggest challenge with that?
The biggest challenge was other people’s perceptions of what I could do. I don’t approach drama and comedy any differently. One starts with a character and then either funny things or serious things happen to him or her. Comedy is strangely more technical.
Do you think diversity drives by broadcasters to make TV more reflective of society are a good idea?
Not only do I think that it is a good idea, it is the right idea. Diversity in terms of race, gender, age, social background, regions within the UK, etc all reflect the society we live in and all (groups) have a right to be represented.
What is your favourite show on television at the moment?
I’m always slightly behind everyone else, so at the moment I’m enjoying Line of Duty.
What are you reading?
I’ve just listened to the audiobook for Life of Pi, which was great to reacquaint myself with. Also I’m reading How to Stop Time by Matt Haig.
What do you look for in a script?
To be good enough for me to forget I might be in it and to get absorbed like I would in a
book. And then it must have the appearance of a short, middle aged Asian man.
What are you working on next?
I’ve got to complete filming on Paddington 2, in which I have a small role.
There has been a lot of anti-immigrant rhetoric over the past few years. What effect, if any, has this had on you and your family?
To be honest, I grew up with anti-immigrant rhetoric. It’s depressing to realise that it never really went away but I think it’s better to know what the state of play is and deal with that, rather than what might be hidden.
We dealt with it before and we can deal with it again. What got us through it in the past was unity. We have to keep that in mind and not allow other forces to divide us.