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‘The establishment didn’t know what to do with me’: Sanjeev Bhaskar on marriage, success and stereot

In 1995, 31-year-old Sanjeev Bhaskar was performing a two-week run of The Secret Asians, his comedy double act with the musician Nitin Sawhney, at Ovalhouse theatre in south London. After a surprise rave review from Bonnie Greer in Time Out magazine, a group of BBC executives, including the future producer of The Office, Anil Gupta, flipped a coin to see whether they should go to the show after work or head to the pub. Luckily for Bhaskar, the toss went in his favour. The show was such a hit that they offered him the chance to put those sketches on Radio 4 as part of a new comedy show exploring British Asian culture. It was called Goodness Gracious Me – and it would make Bhaskar a household name.

By 1998, the show had transferred to primetime on BBC Two and was a firm part of the British Asian cultural zeitgeist. In music, the so-called Asian underground movement was giving voice to second-generation migrants through its mix of club culture and north Indian bhangra. In film, writers and directors such as Gurinder Chadha and Ayub Khan Din explored intergenerational differences in Bhaji on the Beach and East Is East. On TV, Bhaskar’s sketch series – created by an ensemble of British Asian actors including Bhaskar’s future wife, Meera Syal – lampooned British Asian stereotypes through a mixture of farce and knowing irony.

Read the interview in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 01/08/22]

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