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‘Desi Rascals’: Solly, Jo and Shmoyel on Series 2…

‘Desi Rascals’: Solly, Jo and Shmoyel on Series 2…

July 29 2015

Two stars from Series 1 and a new entrant talk to us about their hopes and fears as Series 2 gets under way…

LOVE it or loathe it, there’s little doubt that “Desi Rascals”, now in its second series, is saying something about the world we live in.

Whether it’s pouting wannabes, buff hunks, or perhaps far more brutally and unkindly – nothing more than plain fame-chasing non-entities, it’s a window into which the rest of Britain is looking through and thinking…

And you can take your corner and defend it – most of the mainstream press has warmed to it – the Asian press….who cares?

That’s a joke, btw.

The latest series has added two relatively better known faces to the original and popular list of newcomers to TV.

Solomon Akhtar, one of the finalists of “The Apprentice”, makes an entry, as does Jasmin Walia, who is already one of the most famous Asian faces in Britain today.

She had a prominent role in some TV reality series called “The Only Way is Essex”, or ‘TOWIE’, as it is better known to its fans. She’s what might be described in popular terms, as hot. Smoking, really. Tabloid fodder but has a boyfriend in another reality TV star Ross Worswick.

In fact, one of the most striking features of “Desi Rascals” is just how beautiful all the young people are (in relative and physical terms) and it’s obviously a major point of attraction for some viewers (you know who you are). The first episode last week featured a bikini pool party; traditional, it ain’t.

More seriously, the new series, which has been backed from he first by filmmaker Gurinder Chadha and reality TV supremo, Tony Wood (‘TOWIE), continues now until September 9.

The series has also got a channel transfer to Sky 1 from Sky Living. So the stakes are higher.

Whether it was the romance between Moses Baig and Jo Shah or the indifference of the very popular (with the ladies) Shmoyel to what was on offer, or the shifting dynamics within the wider Shah family (sister Natalie and Mum Celia and Dad, Manoj), there seemed to be something for everyone.

For Shmoyel, the dreamboat of many a young woman, the first series taught him how to be comfortable with himself.

Shmoyel: How to get out of his 'friendzone'

“Everyone has their own opinion,” he told just as shooting for episode 1 was under way.

“But you’ve just got to stay true to yourself. I wasn’t that nervous about being on TV, I’ve been in front of the camera for modelling.

“There was a little bit of pressure right at the beginning and you have three cameras on you, and you have to act natural, when it’s the most unnatural thing but it got easier and as you got to know each other, you get more comfortable.”

But he wasn’t so relaxed as to embark on a romance and it became one of the major talking points of series 1 and along with it came a hashtag, #friendzone. Any woman that showed interest was mildly spurned.

A history of art graduate, who also holds a Masters in contemporary art and opened his first gallery during the last series, he told us, he’s naturally cautious when it comes to romance.

“Friendzone – yeah, that has been my tagline,” he sniggered. “I don’t really give girls much of a chance anyway. It might seem a bit harsh,” he continued, laughing.

What do the women need to do to get out of the friendzone, Shmoyel?

“They don’t have to be interested in art,” he countered. “What appeals to me is people being passionate about whatever is close to them.

“I am cautious. They have got to get my sense of humour, they’ve got to be cool,” he said, explaining that cool in this sense means having a strong sense of themselves and not be deflected or derailed by what others might think or say.

He said his parents are not putting any pressure on him but as is traditional, there are expectations (not very keenly expressed at present).

“My mum was like, ‘I want you to focus on your education before you find a girl’ and then I did a Masters, so put it off longer and then I set up my own business and didn’t really have much time, but in an ideal world, I do want to get married. It’s all about the right time, the right person.”

There, you heard it loud and clear, ladies.

Almost at the other end of the spectrum is Jo Shah. In the last series, her blossoming romance with Mo, traversing the cultural boundaries, was a serious ‘water cooler’ issue.

Jo: 'Wait and see on romance'

Speaking before episode 1, she was extremely coy about where her relationship with Moses was headed. (Episode 1 spoiler: If you saw the first instalment, you will know the fairy tale romance is faltering).

“I’d been single for so long,” she told us, “that I was coming into the programme as a family member. I didn’t expect to meet anyone that I liked, so when I met Moses it all happened very quickly,” she told us.

It even gained its own hashtag and because of the cultural differences – Jo is from a mixed race – Asian Dad, white mum – family, while Moses is from a Muslim background, there were the inevitable mutterings.

But Jo said she was heartened by those who supported her and it also helped to open up a debate about mixed race families and some of the issues they face.

“People could relate to the situation. Mum and Dad weren’t sure about Moses and these were things that just happened.

“People could relate to it and see our journey. Mum and Dad went through quite a bit growing up together and being in a relationship. They’ve had people message them and say, ‘we’re going through similar things’.”

For new boy in town, Solomon ‘Solly’ (as he calls himself) Akhtar, there is only one objective – to have fun.

Solomon 'Solly' Akhtar: 'I want to have fun''

“I want the public to see my real life, not just the business side. I want my life to be really open and ‘Desi Rascals’ gives me that exposure.

“The public have only seen one side of my character and I want to show my fun side. You are going to see the real Solly Akhtar, with a lot more love, a lot more entertainment and hopefully, I will bring a smile to viewers, and make people laugh.”

He said shooting for “The Apprentice” was quite different; it was about the tasks and it was stressful as he was trying to win the prize of working with multi-millionaire Alan Sugar and have him invest in Akhtar’s business.

“This is a lot more fun to film. This is about my social life and culture, and being in touch with my roots.”

His business will feature but he is relishing the prospect of the public seeing his antics – romantic and otherwise.

“I am still a little bit immature,” confessed the 20-something Akhtar. “You’re going to see me grow up a little bit more – from a baby lion into a full grown one.

“I am not attached. If there is someone I click with on ‘Desi Rascals’, you are going to see that. If you open your life up to cameras, you’ve got to show everything and dating is a big part of my life, I am young but I do want to settle down.”

  • Desi Rascals, every Wednesday 8pm, Sky 1 until September 9.


Episode 1 Review
It wasn’t the most happening of instalments but there was enough to keep you engaged. A wedding and the bridegroom’s Bollywood dance would have been plenty for some but for others it would might just have been too clichéd and contrived and the sceptics might wonder how much is reality, and just how much is manipulated. The same question surfaces with the bitching – which appeared to go nuclear and incendiary unnaturally early and not with much cause, as Yasmin dumped a superlative pile of bile on poor old Kavita’s dainty shoes (or what seem like them). If this is how you like it – Series 2 is a winner. If, however, you want entertainment beyond beautiful people living a certain (bitchy) life and some more substance to the drama, you’re probably only going to give ‘Desi Rascals’ a certain amount of time or leeway, before you bail out or get hooked (again?) ACV rating: *** out of five (Sailesh Ram)
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Written by Asian Culture Vulture


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