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Eastern Eye Arts, Culture and Theatre Awards: Nitin Sawhney wins top award out of 18, while Shekhar Kapur remembers London inspiration…

Eastern Eye Arts, Culture and Theatre Awards: Nitin Sawhney wins top award out of 18, while Shekhar Kapur remembers London inspiration…

The sixth Eastern Eye Arts Culture and Theatre Awards were postponed from September to February this year…

A GLITTERING ARRAY OF STARS turned out to celebrate artistic achievement in Britain.

The top award of the evening – the outstanding contribution to the creative industries went to musician and composer Nitin Sawhney, at the Eastern Eye (EE, the newspaper) Arts, Culture and Theatre Awards (ACTAs).

While it was the top award, BAFTA-winning film director Shekhar Kapur, who presented the award to Sawhney, recounted emotionally what being back in London meant to him and how it had spurred his creativity. He is based in Mumbai mostly but is in the UK doing publicity for his latest film, ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ (See our interview links below).

Nitin Sawhney stands in front of artwork by Amina Art Ansari who is working with the British Army (one of the Acta sponsors)

He recently told how impressed he is with the depth of British Asian talent and yearns to make another film here soon, utilising British strengths.

Amit Roy, chief of the EE ACTA judging panel, in a short keynote address, also called for more British Asian commissioning editors and said the ACTAs showcased the best of British.

Acknowledging progress on Friday (February 3), he said: “We need to go a little beyond British Asian artists waiting to be given commissions by other people. Maybe the time has time for British Asians to move into commissioning roles themselves.”

Kapur told the audience at the May Fair Hotel in central London: “I was of the generation that came here to be lawyers, doctors and accountants.

“Once I had done that, (becoming an accountant and management consultant in London), I thought, right, I’d done what society wanted me to do, I wandered off to find myself and started making films.”

Sangita Myska winner of ACTA Presenter of the Year with her award

His first major film in India was ‘Masoom’, made in 1983 and features two names who are now very well-known in India and recognised internationally as well – Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi, who also appears in a prominent role in ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’. His second film, ‘Mr India’ is regarded as an even more iconic film and helped to launch the career of Bollywood icon Anil Kapoor and featured one of the immortals of Indian cinema, Sridevi.

Kapur also joked – at the ceremony which saw 18 awards being handed out – that after ‘Elizabeth’ (1998) got seven Oscar nominations and phoning his doctor father to tell him, Kapur senior joked: “Does this mean you get another job?”

Myska presents the award for non-fiction to Sathnam Sanghera for

Sawhney tweeted his gratitude on Monday (February 6) and spoke about the racism he had endured and continues to combat – after he received the award from Kapur on the evening.

Sawhney said: “The constant challenge is to make music that is relevant, and that speaks from the heart and is true, and goes with what you believe. And you never let yourself down or what you create.”

Kapur worked with Sawhney on the Jemima Khan written and produced romantic comedy, ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?’, which is out later this month.

ACV also has an interview with Sawhney and fellow musician-composer on the film, Naughty Boy who also helped with the music which features such singing talent as Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Kanika Kapoor. This interview will be out here shortly and ahead of the film’s release on February 24.

Pop star and ‘I am a celebrity… Get Me Out of Here’ star Naughty Boy, aka Shahid Khan, also presented one of the ACTAs on the evening, handing one to classical vocalist and composer Swati Natekar.

She told the audience that women had to stand up for themselves and sometimes even families would not support them in a career. She is a renowned vocalist who has worked with Ustad Zakir Hussain and Talvin Singh. She even sang briefly for the audience after collecting her ACTA. (See our Instagram) .

Naughty Boy, Shekhar Kapur, Nitin Sawhney

Among the other winners on the evening were Sathnam Sanghera for his work of non-fiction book, ‘Empireland: How Imperialism has shaped modern Britain’; it is a masterful, yet highly accessible work about how deeply embedded colonial ideas are in present-day British society.

The award for best fiction went jointly to Hafsa Zayyan, for ‘We Are All Birds of Uganda’ and Neema Shah, for ‘Kololo Hill’. Both books are set in Uganda and in part about the Asian community there and the expulsion order dictator Idi Amin passed in 1972, effectively asking those with brown skin to quit the country. Last year, there were many events and discussions looking back marking the horrendous anniversary.

Artists whose work acv has covered recently were also in the awards.

Chila Kumari Burman sent a video message accepting the ACTA for Art, and her exhibition at Covent Garden in 2021, entitled, ‘Do you see words in rainbows?‘ She is currently exhibiting work in Barcelona and sent a video message of thanks. She spoke to acv about her work in 2021 and her famous decoration of the Tate Britain facade.

Sagar Radia and Sudha Bhuchar

Winning the award for photography was the late Maghanbhai ‘Masterji’ Patel. An exhibition of his photographs from his studio in Coventry were displayed last year at Compton Verney, near Oxford. ACV’s Associate Editor Suman Bhuchar made a short film about the exhibition, ‘Through the lens of Masterji’. His daughter, an artist too, Tarla Patel collected the award on the evening.

There was much cheer too for the West End production of ‘Life of Pi’. Lead actor Hiren Abeysekara took home the ACTA for Best Actor (theatre) for his performance; while actor Syreeta Kumar was on hand to collect the Best Production award for the show, which is an adaptation of the Booker Prize winning novel of the same name by Canadian Yann Martel and turned into theatre by British writer Lolita Chakrabarti. The show is heading for the US now.

Broadcaster Sangita Myska won the Best Presenter ACTA. She has weekend afternoon shows on radio station LBC and very famously excoriated a racist caller with style and aplomb last year. This excerpt was seen and heard more than a few million times. She currently has three million listeners (and viewers) and growing – at LBC where she is the station’s first Asian anchor – and she has also has fronted many BBC Radio 4 programmes.

Shobna Gulati

Anjana Vasan won the Actress category in the Film, TV and Drama band. Her performances in the Channel 4 music comedy, ‘We are Lady Parts’ about an all-female Muslim punk band trying to make it in the pop world and her turn as another assassin in the global hit TV series, ‘Killing Eve’, inured her to large audiences for both and won her the award. She sent a video message as she was preparing to go on stage for the hit West Enf production of ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ alongside Oscar nominee and heartthrob Paul Mescal.

Sagar Radia, one of the rising stars of the BBC & HBO TV production, ‘Industry’ now in its second series, was named Best Actor in the Film, TV & Drama section. Radia plays no-nonsense high stakes dealing trader, Rishi Ramdani. He is also one of the main characters in ITV’s prime time cottage hospital series, ‘The Good Karma Hospital’, set in Kerala, and now in its fourth series.

Director Indhu Rubasingham won the Acta for Best Director for her part in bringing the play, ‘The Father and the Assassin’ to the National Theatre. Written by Anupama Chandrasekhar, the drama explores the ideological motivations of the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, Nathuram Godse, who initially supported the Indian leader in the country’s freedom struggle and then turned against him, violently. In recent times, there has been sympathy towards Godse and more criticism of Gandhiji.

Nitin Ganatra

The Best Scriptwriter Award went to Asif Khan for his children’s play, ‘Jabala and the Jinn’. One of Britain’s leading stage actors and a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), Khan also writes prodigiously and this was his first work for young people and inspired by the birth of his first child.

The Rising Star award which is sponsored by the Arts Council was awarded to Rish Shah for his breakthrough role in the global hit TV series, ‘Ms Marvel’. Shah plays the crush of lead character and superpower teenager, Kamala Khan (played by Iman Vellani) and he gets to keep his British accent as a guy who has moved to the US from the UK, with his family. Shah sent a video message – saying how proud he was to get a such an award and saw his role in such a high profile drama series helmed by Marvel Studios and broadcast on Disney+, as another step forward for representation. The rising star also appeared in the US social satire, ‘India Sweets and Spices’ and played the love interest of the Sophia Ali character in the film.

Two institutions were also singled out for praise.

Author Mona Dash

One was the British Film Institute (BFI) which won Eastern Eye Editor’s Special Award for its season of Satyajit Ray films last year. Curated by filmmaker Sangeeta Datta, all of Ray’s 37 films were screened at the BFI Southbank over two months. Justin Johnson and Julie Pearce from the BFI collected the ACTA. (See link below).

The National Trust won an award for Community Engagement. Its 115-page report, ‘Addressing our histories of colonialism and historic slavery’ showed that nearly a fifth of the 500 historic properties under its management had been built with wealth created from Britain’s colonies or its direct involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Celia Richardson and Corinne Fowler received the award from Roy.

Among the other celebrities and public figures presenting awards were actors Nitin Ganatra, Shobna Gulati, Sudha Bhuchar and Tony Jayawardena; Amish Tripathi, author and director of the Nehru Centre in London; Krishnendu Majumdar, British Academy of Film & Television Arts (Bafta) chair; Deepak Mistry of the Arts Council England (ACE); Lord Jithesh Gadhia, Tory peer and Labour politicians Valerie Vaz MP and Barry Gardiner MP.

Rekesh Chauhan entertained the audience with piano (sse Instagram video link below or click on picture)

Sujit Ghosh, India’s deputy high commissioner, also addressed the audience and paid tribute to the late Parvatiben and Ramniklal Solanki, the founders of the Asian Media Group which owns EE. They founded their first title, Garavi Gujarat in 1968. Ramniklal Solanki passed away in March 2020, aged 89, his wife, Parvatiben passed on September 8 2022, aged 86.

There was also music from star pianist Rekesh Chauhan and flautist Praveen Prathapan and tabla player, Aref Durvesh.

The 90-minute awards show was compered by BBC broadcaster Nihal Arthanayake.

Main picture: Nitin Sawhney and Shekhar Kapur (Courtesy ©AMG)

AACTAs 2022 at a glance

Arts – Chila Kumari Burman
Dance – Urja Desai Thakore – (‘Kattam Katti’)
Fiction – Hafsa Zayyan (‘We are all birds of Uganda’) and Neema Shah (‘Kololo Hill’)
Non-fiction – Santham Sanghera (‘Empireland: How Imperalism has shaped modern Britain’)
Photography – Posthumously Maghanbhai ‘Masterji’ Patel, ‘Through the lens of Masterji’ collected by Tarla Patel (daughter)
Best Presenter – Sangita Myska (LBC)
Best Production – Life of Pi (West End play)
Best Director – Indhu Rubasingham (National Theatre play, ‘The Father and the Assassin’)
Best Scriptwriter – Asif Khan (‘Jabala and the Jinn‘, young people’s play)
Emerging Artist – Rish Shah (‘Ms Marvel’)
Traditional Music – Swati Natekar
Theatre Best Actor – Hiren Abeysekera (‘Life of Pi’)
Theatre Best Actress – Ayesha Dharkar (‘The Father and the Assassin’)
Film, TV, Drama Best Actor – Sagar Radia (‘The Good Karma Hospital‘/‘Industry’)
Film, TV, Drama Best Actress – Anjana Vasan (‘Killing Eve‘ and ‘We are Lady Parts’)
Community Engagament Award – The National Trust (Colonialism and historic slavery)
Editor’s Special Award – British Film Institute (BFI) Saytajit Ray season
Outstanding Contribution to the creative industry – Nitin Sawhney

For more see:

*Sailesh Ram, editor of is one of twelve ACTA judges and a former editor of Eastern Eye

We tweeted (Shekhar Kapur presentation) in real-time and there is more on our Instagram too

Pictures –

Shekhar Kapur interview – ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’

Lily James and Shezad Latif

Jemima Khan

ACV Instagram from the evening – Nitin Sawhney speech

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture