The Great British Asian Invasion

Channel 4

Andrew Lloyd Webber indulging in ‘Bombay Dreams’; ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ scoring at the box-office; Brits chained-up in Guantanamo Bay: there’s never been a better time to tell the story of ‘The Asians in Britain’.

Juniper Communication’s dynamic, insightful and entertaining film delves beneath the stereotypes and the misconceptions, to tell the real story behind Britain’s South Asian community.  Who came, and when?  What did they do, and why?  Who won out… and who’s still losing?  And were the Asians ever really as different from the Brits as Enoch Powell wanted people to think?

The film charts the story of the first generation, revealing the many minute yet indelible ways in which they changed Britain.  Asian doctors kept the NHS alive, curry house owners spanked British taste-buds into shape, factory workers stoked the economic boom, and cornershop owners ensured we’d never run out of milk again.  The programme rattles through these stories revealing the answers to all the questions you’ve ever wanted to ask – and some you probably wish you hadn’t!  For instance, the film will tell you why most cornershops are owned by Patels, and make you think twice about your favourite Chicken Tikka Masala dish.  But it will also reveal why so many people from various parts of South Asia arrived in Britain to carry out such unrewarding work, and tell why they decided their children should be raised here.

The programme takes up the story of these children, for whom ‘home’ has always been Britain.  How has being raised with two cultures affected their lives here?  Many have used this as a dynamic springboard to success in the professions and in the media, and the film charts this rollercoaster ride from the early breakthroughs through to contemporary times, from Art Malik’s dashing role in ‘Jewel in the Crown’ to Rishi Rich mixing Britney.  But it also looks at those doors, particularly in football, that have remained firmly closed to Asians, and uncovers some disturbing answers.  And it probes the world of the young Islamic fanatics to enquire why they are now rejecting the very Britishness that the first generation of immigrants fought so hard to achieve.

These stories are told through the personal recollections of figures such as Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar, and the intelligent and witty use of graphics, archive and music ensure that the story of ‘The Asians in Britain’ is revealed in all its technicolour, passionate glory.

Channel 4 ▪ TX 07/10/2004 ▪ 1 x 120 min
Series Produced & Directed by Janice Sutherland