January 2 2016
We take a look back at the year that was 2015 in TV, Music/Dance and Art…
OUR television coverage was dominated principally by two major mainstream free to air TV series.
One was the epic 10-part debut series of the colonial drama, “Indian Summers” from Channel 4.
The other was a reality TV first – as film director Gurinder Chadha (Of Bend it Like Beckham) and Tony Wood, the producer behind the hit and culturally significant, “The Only Way is Essex” (‘TOWIE‘) teamed up to produce “Desi Rascals” initially for Sky Living and then Sky 1.
Both series enjoyed ups and downs – and “Indian Summers” undoubtedly triumphed – a second series will start early in 2016. There was a considerable launch and there was much excitement – (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indian-summers-raj-warts-high-tv-drama/)
Initially our resident TV reviewer Chayya Syal was a little sceptical, but the £14m drama – Channel 4’s most costly to date – began to hook viewers as love and politics mingled explosively about half way through. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indian-summers-catch-up-episode-5-flames-of-passion-past-and-present/)
“Indian Summers” had become essential Sunday evening viewing.
It was about the same time that we also began live tweeting when each new episode went out at 9pm on the Sunday evening.
At the helm was Syal, whose fast, smart and witty remarks and observations on twitter won us a cult following, and gained acknowledgement from Channel 4 itself (see pic below).
There was a special twitter ask Alice (Jemima West) and Sooni (Ayesha Kala) (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/your-twitter-questions-answered-for-indian-summers-jemima-west-and-aysha-kala/)
Some folks from Brazil, admirers of West from a previous TV series shown in North America, participated and clamoured for “Indian Summers” to be shown there. It did feature on the US PBS channel in the Autumn.
There were also interviews with leading cast members.
Nikesh Patel who played ‘Aafrin’, the young Indian civil servant with a bright future, risked it all by getting involved both with the Indian freedom movement and Alice (West). (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indian-summers-nikesh-patel-on-aafrin-from-boy-to-man/)
West also spoke to us about her slightly unsettling closeness to her on-screen brother ‘Ralph’ (Henry-Lloyd Hughes). (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indian-summers-jemima-west-on-alice-and-ralph-they-have-something-quite-animal-about-them/)
Alexander Cobb became one of the stars of Series 1, as the young Scot Ian, who begins to have grave doubts over the colonial project and is horrified when an innocent man is sent to the gallows. He hinted that in Series 2 his friendship with Sooni (Kala) may develop and deepen his sense of alienation from the others in the close knit British expat community. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indian-summers-alexander-cobb-ian-will-be-back-and-there-could-be-sooni-romance/)
Undoubtedly, the drama left us wanting more and Syal gave it a ringing endorsement in her final wrap piece. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indian-summers-wrap-queen-of-simla-and-scots-indiana-jones-set-for- battle/)
Her wishes and ours were swiftly answered – it was announced there would be a series 2 and excitingly some big and new names are joining the cast. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indian-summers-art-malik-to-join-cast-of-indian-summers/) Channel 4 should be announcing shortly when the series is to return to our TV screens in 2016.
Sadly, for “Desi Rascals” there is no such recall, though it did get two series.
It started a bit uncertainly, but Syal was charmed half-way through the first series as some of the characters and their stories were rooted in real situations and predicaments. The first series on Sky Living ended in the summer on a high (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/desi-rascals-curtains-tears-tantrum/)
There was sadness to see it go and a campaign to bring it back worked.
Adding new characters, including established TV reality stars in Jasmin Walia (from ‘TOWIE’) and Solomon Akhtar (“The Apprentice”) was meant to enhance the show’s appeal.
‘Solly’, as he liked to be known, certainly brought humour and high jinks to proceedings and told us that was his goal; Jo Shah was elliptical about her romance with Mo Baig; and Shmoyel Siddiqui, the series’ No1 male hottie, told us he was still looking for ‘the one’. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/desi-rascals-solly-jo-and-shmoyel-on-series-2/)
The portents for series 2 looked promising and after an uncertain start it did began to gather some momentum and episode 5 provided some classic television. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/desi-rascals-5-getting-rid-of-the-nazaar-evil-eye/) However, the show seemed to lose its way and its focus on more trivial affairs grated. The writing was somewhat on the wall and a slightly limp ending did little to counter the expectation that the series was not going to be renewed. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/desi-rascals-series-2-the-verdict-sorry-cast-and-not-your-fault/)
The Community Channel produced some of the most challenging and innovative material in “PREMature”. A series about a troubled Asian teenager and brought to our screens by Terry Mardi, it won respect and a considerable following.
Mardi spoke to ACV’s Tasha Mathur about how the series had come about and the tie-up with The Community Channel. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/premature-new-tv-drama-community-funded-offers-new-vision/)
Something of a cult figure himself and a creative force, he revealed the early slights that have propelled him into becoming a passionate advocate of youth and his desire to make more films with aspiring Asian talent. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/getting-out-box-terry-mardi-producer-premature-series/)
It was, hurriedly, in March that the BBC brought forward Leslee Udwin’s documentary, “India’s Daughter” as the Indian government moved to ban it. Featuring an interview in jail with one of the men who gang raped a medical student on a bus, it vividly illustrated how some sections of Indian society viewed women – as no more than the property of men and utterly beholden to them for identity and purpose. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indias-daughter-fault-lies/)
The documentary which has been shown in many parts of the world continues to hold a light up against violence and discrimination against women and its power was recognised at the Asian Media Awards in October. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/asian-media-awards-2015-triumph-for-indias-daughter/ )
Earlier and back to the spring of last year, the stars were out in force from the world of stage and screen for The Asian Business Awards.
Among the stars at the event, which also sees the launch of The Asian Rich List, was Bhasker Patel of “Emmerdale” and Deepak Verma, once of “Eastenders”. Home Secretary Theresa May was the chief guest and helped to launch the publication that profiles 101 of the country’s richest Asians.
Not long after, filmmaker Deeyah Khan talked to Tasha Mathur about her revealing and insightful TV documentary, “Jihad: A British Story” shown on ITV. Talking to those who once believed in Jihad, it found that a sense of alienation, inadequacy and social isolation often drew vulnerable young men to extremist causes. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/celebrities-at-the-asian-business-awards-2015/)
Predictably, a documentary about “Muslim Drag Queens” on Channel 4 brought both plaudits and condemnation. Trying to pick his way carefully through both and keeping a sane head was acv contributor Khakan Qureshi. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/finding-a-voice-a-response-to-channel-4s-muslim-drag-queens/)
As a BBC India Season got under way in the autumn, long-time Eastern Eye columnist Amit Roy welcomed the initiative but said the corporation had played safe and had too many celebrities fronting programmes for no good reason. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/bbc-india-season-viewpoint-disappointing-and-unimaginative-on-the-whole/) However, among the more innovative and successful programmes in the season was “Mumbai High”. Nainita Desai spoke to us about the musical challenges… http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/mumbai-high-sound-of-a-young-nation-on-the-move/
Returning to our screens for a fourth series (!) was “Citizen Khan”. Mrs Khan, aka Shobhu Kapoor, talked to us about what to expect in the latest instalment of community leader Khan’s desire to be taken seriously by the Establishment – and his family. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/citizen-khan-mrs-khan-shobu-kapoor-comes-clean/)
In November, the creative and talented team behind the Youtube hit, “The Corner Shop Show”, announced they were embarking on a crowdfunding appeal to make a feature length style, series finale. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/corner-shop-show-islah-abdur-rahmans-big-finale-feature-dream/)
The British Film Institute’s Love Season, drew together Gurinder Chadha and Art Malik for a conversation about race and romance on British TV. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/race-and-romance-on-tv-art-malik-adrian-lester-gurinder-chadha-and-bbcs-hilary-salmon-debate/)
EARLY on, violinist and Carnatic expert Jyotsna Srikanth teamed up with beatboxer Shlomo for a special concert at the Southbank.
Kathak dance icon Aakash Odedra spoke to Suman Bhuchar about his future and how he is better known in some parts of the continent of Europe than he is here in Britain. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/global-force-aakash-odedra/)
Saudha, Society of poetry and Indian music, spoke controversially of wanting to develop a ‘Western Gharana’. Their idea being a school of poetry and music singularly developed in Europe and a system as through or credible as other Gharanas first developed in India. The group’s two day festival of Ghazals and Thumri in February was followed up by a recital of poetry and songs at Keats House in Hampstead in September, as part of its Bangla Music Festival. In October, the group hosted its third festival of World Poetry and Indian classical music in Leeds.
Incredibly this latter story http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/saudha-keats-and-the-bangla-music-festival/ was shared 398 times – and currently holds the acv record for FB shares/likes.
Music from Bengal and Bangladesh also features in the concert organisation of Runi Khan. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/freedom-week-2015-bangladesh-celebration-starts-with-world-renowned-tagore-singer/ )
Best known for his design and fashion work, Saran Kohli showed his dance prowess. He appeared at one of the biggest celebrations of hip hop anywhere in the world with the premiere of his very own, “Molecules of a Dream” at Sadler’s Wells Breakin’ Convention festival. He spoke to us about where the dance bug bit him and how he has managed it alongside his fashion design career.(http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/breakin-convention-fashion-designer-saran-kohli-to-showcase-new-hip-hop-dance-work/)
International Yoga Day on June 19 was marked by TV presenter Anjali Kusre for us. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/international-yoga-day-on-june-21-ready/)
Singer Serena Kern, one of the latest of uber music producer Rishi Rich’s protégés, talked about her double life
One of Bollywood’s most popular singers Shreya Ghosal came to Alchemy and spoke of her excitement of performing at the Southbank Centre.
Pianist Rekesh Chauhan’s steadily growing reputation was the subject of a full profile, ahead of his first album launch, “Beyond Roots”.
Bharatanatyam dancer Kiranmayee M told us why performing in the UK was such a thrill for her.
Sangetta Dutt was joined by Bollywood royalty in Shabana Azmi and Javid Akhtar for her recital of Rabindranath Tagore songs. The filmmaker’s son, Soumik, a rising name on the classical circuit, accompanied and Hampstead was impressed.
Naturally enough, AR Rahman’s first UK concert in some years, aroused huge interest. We were able to offer competition tickets and the final concert proved worth the wait. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/ar-rahman-a-special-assessment-with-comments-from-a-select-panel/)
Canadian songstress Manika Kaur proved a huge draw too. A rare UK performance and her charity work brought her new fans here.
In September, Indian classical music comes to the Southbank as it always does in a big way.
Darbar is the country’s largest Indian classical music festival and we talked to Abhishek Lahiri who was extremely excited about playing Darbar for the first time.
Correspondent Tasha Mathur was hugely impressed with a new dance composition by Shobana Jeyasingh. “Material Men” which brought together a hip hop artist and a classical Indian dancer.
Subi Shah was able to secure world music and Pakistani Sufi maestro Sain Zahoor for a rare interview as he came on a short UK tour.
Kathak supremo Akram Khan turned his considerable talent and attention to children for the first time. His adaptation of his own “Desh” for youngsters proved a huge success and should be an inspiration for aspiring dancers.
Talvin Singh was the headline act for the 2015 edition of London International Arts Festival and festival director Jyotsna Srikanth introduced some of the lesser known acts…
What sounded like a great idea proved to be more than just that as singers Ash King and Jonita Gandhi celebrated 50 years of Bollywood music in Hammersmith.
Khakan Qureshi marked 25 years of Birmingham-based dance and arts organisation, Sampad with an in-depth and personal interview looking back at how Piali Ray built Sampad up. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/sampad-25-years-of-dance-and-daring/)
As we approached the end of year, Ashanti Omkar, celebrating a year of her landmark debut show on BBC Asian Network, told us how her expertise and knowledge of South Indian and Sri Lankan music, film and culture, has been encapsulated in a pioneering radio show.
She also told us what 20 South Indian film music tracks have made an impression on her and in order of merit! (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/my-top-20-south-indian-film-songs-of-2015-bbc/)
ONE of our first proper videos covered a wedding show organised by Aashni & Co at the Dorchester in London, featuring designers Tarun Tahiliani and Sabyasachi. Artists in their own right they make the case that wedding dresses should reflect the changing mores of Indian women. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=285&v=y04lum7BpuA)
In November, the V&A unveiled its ‘Fabrics of India’ exhibition, reflecting the history of clothes design on the subcontinent. One of its curators, Divia Patel gave us an insight into the choices. The exhibition continues until January 10.
In the same month, one of the largest celebrations of its kind hit London. GFest promotes work from artists from the lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex community. Two photographer artists, Sunil Gupta and Charan Singh spoke to Suman Bhuchar about their exhibition “Asian Future”.
GFest founders Niranjan Kamatkar and Subodh Rathod looked back at how the debate – and consequent legislative changes – around sexual identity has changed and progressed. (http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/gfest-how-and-why-it-started-niranjan-kamatkar-and-subodh-rathod/)
Thanks to contributors to these sections: Chayya Syal, Tasha Mathur, Khakan Qureshi, Suman Bhuchar and Subi Shah.
(Sailesh Ram, editor www.asianculturevulture.com)
Happy New Year!