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Meera Syal

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She is probably one of the most famous of her generation of British Asians to impact mainstream culture. She has written and starred in the awardwinning television series, Goodness Gracious Me, and had the audience in splits in The Kumars at No 42. While she began her career with theatre and then went on to television, the need to share, express and communicate more has made her take ink to paper several times by now and each time, she has been applauded for her artistic flair. Be it the screenplay for Bhaji on the Beach or the script for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical, Bombay Dreams, or her bestselling books Anita and Me, Life isn’t all Ha Ha Hee Hee and the most recent The House of Hidden Mothers… Meera Syal has been a superlatively creative artist since her first job that made her tour a one woman show, One of Us, around the country in her first summer after university. That show won her an award and after that she only moved forward and escalated with every performance or writing she did. She is inspirational, ballsy, experimental but above all extremely proficient. And she does what she does as she very passionately says, ‘I’m not much good at anything else! And what I do is not a job, it’s who I am, the urge to tell stories and through them find meaning and reach people ancient and primal.’ I connected with her to learn more about her journey, her choices and about the various roles she plays…

You are an actor, writer, playwright, producer, singer and journalist—how challenging is donning all these hats?
Well, singer and journalist are probably misleading, I did sing in a jazz band for many years and have done musicals but I really wouldn’t out it down as a profession! Similarly though I’ve written for fair few publications regularly over the years, I wouldn’t describe myself as a journalist either. The main two strings on my bow are acting and writing. And I started writing really because there were so few good roles being offered to me when I first became an actress; when I was faced with the usual stereotypical downtrodden Indian woman kind of stuff I thought, I’m sure I can do better than this as it couldn’t get much worse. I didn’t begin with prose writing until the later 1990s but I do love having the two disciplines to choose from, as one feeds the other continually, it’s the variety that keeps both fresh I think. Also both disciplines feed each other, when you read so many scripts as an actor, you do get a feel for story, and dialogue, character, and I try and feed that into my scripts or novels. Also when I write, I try and make every part as complex and layered as I can because as an actor, I have played the small roles and I know how frustrating it is to have a few lines that you can do nothing with!

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