March 11 2015
The lack of diversity on British TV and film screens has prompted prominent media figures such as Lenny Henry to launch the Act for Change initiative, but a group of people who wanted to make a TV drama with an Asian character at the centre of it did not wait around for someone else to commission it…
by Tasha Mathur
“REAL is a word that has come to many people’s minds when watching it,” said Terry Mardi, co-producer and first assistant director for “PREMature”.
It’s a TV series that focuses on ‘Prem'(to the right in the picture above), a young British Asian boy who is struggling to come to terms with his parents’ divorce and his grandmother’s death.
Describing himself as a, “well-known serial media entrepreneur and ‘Truth Sayer’ for Desi youth around the world”, Terry Mardi created the Terry Mardi Group in around 2005.
With this, he has launched many initiatives aimed at putting ‘Brown People’ on the map such as Desi Circus (a mix of creative acts from magicians to dancers), and Liger Films, which has produced this series.
Airing on the Community Channel, “PREMature” is the brainchild of director, producer and writer, Rohith S Katbamna who came to Terry Mardi with the idea for the series three years ago. They are now at the half-way point in the total of six episodes.
“I have never done a drama series before, so of course me being me, immediately said ‘yes, let’s do it’ before I’d got to grips with what the idea was. I was just ready to go with it,” Mardi told www.asianculturevulture.com
What’s unique is how Mardi and others involved in the project raised the money to make it.
Mardi and Katbamna raised the cash they needed through the funding platform, Kickstarter.
It’s an online facility for those who want to raise resources for creative projects. You set a target amount and a date deadline and encourage others to put money in and offer the donors rights and privileges to the end product, if the sum is achieved. They raised the £35,000 they needed this summer in just under two months.
Mardi explained: “If you go down the traditional commissioned route, then channels only know their demographic in ways that serve their advertising and they try to interfere with the script if it doesn’t fit what they want to do.
“We’re so stuck with being told what to do by the media anyway, even as consumers. So we certainly weren’t about to be told what to do as creators.”
Mardi said it wasn’t an easy decision – going down the Kickstarter route wasn’t without its challenges.
He explained: “We’d never seen anything like this happen before so there was no model we could follow.
“It was the poorest people who were the most inspired by this and who put the most money in and that’s really amazing to me.
“I think it’s because of the nature of the project. Most people who are underdogs themselves can really relate to this project.
“We call ourselves underdogs because we did go to a lot of people who are successful in TV and asked if they could help us and they just didn’t get back to me.
“But it’s really reassuring when the project speaks volumes about standing up and doing what you want to do and people who are in similar situations just get behind it.”
Teaming up with The Community Channel itself was also quite an achievement, as the channel has never broadcast an original TV drama made exclusively for it.
Free to air, and supported by all the major broadcasters in the UK, channel executives were impressed by the pilot episode, which was totally self-funded by Mardi and Kathbamna.
A larger partnership has now formed too – where Liger Films will incubate other scriptwriters and give them an opportunity to air their programmes on the channel.
While PREMature’s lead actor is British Asian, Terry is very clear on the nature of the series.
“This is not a ‘British Asian’ show. It’s a British drama. Britain always talks about how diverse it is but when you switch on the television, you would think something else.
“We’re very disappointed that people in power are pigeonholing and stereotyping people of colour and particularly with how British Asians are represented in British drama.
“We just created a British drama which was shot in West London. We’re born in Britain and we just happen to be Asian as are some of the cast.”
He is hoping to take “PREMature” abroad now on the back of its UK screening and develop more original films for Liger.
Tasha Mathur reviews “PREMature” episode 3 (‘Circles‘)
THE THIRD episode of “PREMature” opens with the now standard definition of a particular word. This time it is ‘routine’, a word which surfaces later in the episode when Prem frustratingly asks his Dad, “Where’s my f***ing my routine?”
One thing is clear…”PREMature” is anything but routine. The show takes itself out of the regular television we see today. While the show itself embodies the complete opposite of routine, so do the characters, which comes through clearly in Circles.
Not one character in this episode is living a routine life. We have Prem who confronts his cheating father; Will who confronts his drunk, disabled mother; Prem’s teacher, Mr. Pearce, who desperately keeps calling his ex-girlfriend after she has decided to abort their baby and Prem’s sister, Nina, inviting her black boyfriend over to dinner…“It’s like the first time we’ve had a black person over. Big moment,” she humorously remarks.
However, while we see a mix of intertwining, complicated relationships, you can’t help but think this is routine without us knowing it. Every person has a story, but do we really know them? A key moment that highlights this is when Malaya, Prem’s father’s mistress, tells him about the story of her father, bringing him to tears. Despite their relationship, he had never known about her life before him.
The episode cleverly shows us that routine might be something that we believe people to be living without really knowing what is going on behind closed doors. Who knows about Mr. Pearce’s anguish over his baby while he tries to keep his students in check? Who knew that Prem confronted his bullies after visualising his father taunting him with them?
It’s an interesting insight into the hidden reasons why people behave in unexpected ways and I personally look forward to finding out more in the next episode.
ACV rating: ****(out of five)
‘PREMature’ continues on The Community Channel every Sunday at 10pm. To find out how you can watch it, please go to: http://premature-series.com/