Meera Syal CBE (born Feroza Syal; 27 June 1961) is a British-Indian comedian, writer, playwright, singer, journalist, producer and actress. She rose to prominence as one of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me and became one of the UK's best-known Indian personalities portraying Sanjeev's grandmother, Ummi, in The Kumars at No. 42.
She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1997 New Year Honours and in 2003 was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to drama and literature.
27 June 1961
|Education||Queen Mary's High School|
|Alma mater||University of Manchester|
|Occupation||Actress, singer, writer, playwright, comedian, producer, journalist,|
|Home town||Essington, Staffordshire, England|
Shekhar Bhatia (m. 1989–2002)
Sanjeev Bhaskar (m. 2005)
Syal was born in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, and grew up in Essington, a mining village a few miles to the north. Her Punjab-born parents, Surinder Syal (father) and Surinder Uppal (mother), came to the United Kingdom from New Delhi. Her father was Khatri, and her mother was Jat. When she was young, the family moved to Bloxwich. This landscape, and the family's status as the only Asian family in a small Midlands mining village of Essington, was later to form the backdrop to her novel (later filmed) Anita and Me, which Syal described in a 2003 BBC interview as semi-autobiographical. She attended Queen Mary's High School in nearby Walsall and then studied English and Drama at Manchester University, graduating with a Double First.
During her studies, Syal joined the Stephen Joseph Studio, acting and latterly writing stage plays. On graduation, she had secured a place to study for an MA in drama and psychotherapy at the University of Leeds, and then to study for a PGCE to teach. However, she had also co-written the one-woman play One of Us with Jackie Shapiro, in which Syal performed all fifteen parts, about a West Midlands-born ethnic Indian girl who ran away from home to become an actress. First performed at the Stephen Joseph Studio, she then performed it at the National Student Drama Festival where it won a prize to perform at the Edinburgh International Festival, where it also won a prize. As a result, a director from the Royal Court Theatre contacted Syal, and asked her to perform in a play at the Royal Court on a three-year contract.
Syal wrote the screenplay for the 1993 film Bhaji on the Beach, directed by Gurinder Chadha, of Bend It Like Beckham fame. She was on the team that wrote and performed in the BBC comedy sketch show Goodness Gracious Me (1996–2001), originally on radio and then on television. She was a scriptwriter on A.R. Rahman and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams and she played the grandmother Sushila in the International Emmy-award-winning series The Kumars at No. 42, which ran for seven series.
In October 2008, she starred in the BBC Two sitcom Beautiful People. This role, as Aunty Hayley, continued in 2009. Syal starred in the eleventh series of Holby City as consultant Tara Sodi. In 2009, she guest starred in Minder and starred in the film Mad, Sad & Bad. In 2010, she played Shirley Valentine in a one-woman show at the Menier Chocolate Factory, later transferring to Trafalgar Studios. In the same year she played Nasreen Chroudhry in two episodes of Doctor Who alongside Matt Smith.
Syal is an occasional singer, having achieved a number one record with Gareth Gates and her co-stars from The Kumars at No. 42 with Spirit in the Sky, the Comic Relief single. She earlier (1988) provided vocals for a bhangra version of "Then He Kissed Me", composed by Biddu and with the Pakistani pop star Nazia Hassan, as part of the short-lived girl band Saffron. In June 2003 she appeared as a guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs programme with a selection of music by Nitin Sawhney, Madan Bala Sindhu, Joni Mitchell, Pizzicato Five, Sukhwinder Singh, Louis Armstrong and others. The luxury she chose to ease her life as a castaway was a piano.
Having studied English at university and penned two novels and a variety of scripts and screenplays, Syal was chosen as one of the guests on "The Cultural Exchange" slot of Front Row on 30 April 2013, when she nominated To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee as a piece of art work which she loved.
From 1986–87 Syal presented Sunday East, a BBC programme.
Syal won the National Student Drama Award for performing in One of Us which was written by Jacqueline Shapiro while at university. She won the Betty Trask Award for her first book Anita and Me and the Media Personality of the Year award at the Commission for Racial Equality's annual Race in the Media awards in 2000. She was given the Nazia Hassan Foundation award in 2003.
In 2011–12, Syal was appointed visiting professor of contemporary theatre at St Catherine's College, Oxford. She has an honorary degree from SOAS, University of London and from University of Roehampton.
In 2004, she took part in one episode of the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are?, which investigated her family history. Syal discovered that both her grandfathers had campaigned against British rule and presence in India: one as a communist journalist, the other as a Punjab protester who was imprisoned and tortured in the Golden Temple.
In January 2005, Syal married her frequent collaborator, Sanjeev Bhaskar, who plays her grandson in The Kumars at No. 42; the marriage ceremony took place in Lichfield registry office, Staffordshire. They have a son, born 2005. Syal has a daughter from her previous marriage to journalist Shekhar Bhatia. Her brother is investigative journalist Rajeev Syal, who covers Whitehall, writing stories for The Guardian.
Her book Anita and Me has found its way onto school and university English syllabuses both in Britain and abroad. Scholarly literature on it includes:
Anita and Me is a British comedy-drama film released in 2002 based on the book of the same name by Meera Syal. It was released during a period of popularity for British Asian films, alongside such as East Is East and Bend It Like Beckham.Avie Luthra
Avie Luthra is an Indian film director and screenwriter.
He began his filmmaking with a short film entitled Baby which won the Royal Television Society Award for Best Student Film in 2002. His second film entitled Cross My Heart was awarded special commendation by London Film Festival TCM Shorts in 2002.His screenwriting credits include episodes of The Canterbury Tales in 2003 and the screenplay for the film Indian Dream. He wrote One Night in Bhopal, a documentary for the British Broadcasting Corporation, in 2004. His short film, Lucky, about a South African AIDS orphan, premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival and got a special mention at the AFI Festival in Los Angeles. Lucky was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Short Film in 2006.He is currently working on an adaptation of Preethi Nair's book, A Hundred Shades of White, for the BBC.As of October 2007, he was in pre-production for his first feature film, "Mad, Sad & Bad". Meera Syal and Nitin Ganatra are cast in the lead parts and the film is being produced by Bex Hopkins, who produced 'Cross My Heart' and 'Lucky', and Christine Alderson for Ipso Facto Films and Roister Doister Films.He is also a psychiatrist.Bhaji on the Beach
Bhaji on the Beach (Hindi: भाजी ऑन द बीच) is a 1993 British comedy-drama film directed by Gurinder Chadha and written by Meera Syal.Bombay Dreams
Bombay Dreams is a Bollywood-themed musical, with music by A. R. Rahman, lyrics by Don Black and the book by Meera Syal and Thomas Meehan, originally produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The London production opened in 2002 and ran for two years. The musical was later produced on Broadway in 2004.Cold Blood (Doctor Who)
"Cold Blood" is the ninth episode in the fifth series of British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast on 29 May 2010 on BBC One. It was written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Ashley Way. It is the second episode of a two-part story, the first episode being "The Hungry Earth", which features the return of the reptilian humanoid Silurians.
Continuing from the previous episode, alien time traveller the Doctor (Matt Smith) and geologist Nasreen Chaudhry (Meera Syal) have taken the TARDIS deep below the ground to the Silurian city where the Doctor's companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), a local man named Mo (Alun Raglan), and Mo's son, Elliot (Samuel Davies), are being held hostage. Meanwhile, above ground, Amy's fiancé, Rory (Arthur Darvill); Mo's wife, Ambrose (Nia Roberts); and Ambrose's father, Tony (Robert Pugh), keep watch over Alaya (Neve McIntosh), a captured Silurian who is the key to freeing the hostages. While the Doctor leaves Amy and Nasreen to negotiate sharing the planet with the Silurians, to help Mo find his son Eliot, it is revealed that Restac's sister Alaya has been killed by Ambrose on the surface.
Chibnall was elected by executive producers Steven Moffat and Piers Wenger to write a two-part episode about the return of the Silurians. Chibnall wanted "Cold Blood" in particular to be about the mistakes people make under pressure, and conflict that could come out of protecting a family. The episode is also connected to the series' story arc, as the crack in the universe returns at the end of the episode. "The Hungry Earth" and "Cold Blood" were filmed in October and November 2009, with scenes in "Cold Blood" shot in Llanwynno, Wales, Cardiff's Temple of Peace, Plantasia, and an array of locations and sets for parts of the Silurian city, which the production team did not want to look like a cave. The episode was watched by 7.49 million viewers in the United Kingdom and received mixed reviews from critics. Some reviewers were disappointed by the plot and characteristics of the Silurians, but the emotional ending was widely praised.Dawson Bros.
Dawson Bros. are a team of UK comedy writers. They are brothers Steve Dawson (born 1979) and Andrew Dawson (born 1977) and their childhood friend Tim Inman (born 1979).The trio were educated at Abingdon School during the 1990s. They have written on shows including That Mitchell and Webb Look, MTV Europe Music Awards, Total Wipeout, The Jonathan Ross Show, Take Me Out, the Brit Awards, Happy Finish, Skins, The Peter Serafinowicz Show, Derren Brown's Trick or Treat, Balls of Steel, The Friday Night Project, the Royal Variety Performance, Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway and I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!. They regularly contribute centrepiece sketches to Children in Need, Sport Relief and Comic Relief – such as the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them sketch for Children in Need 2016 and the Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em sketch starring Michael Crawford for Sport Relief 2016. They also contributed to BBC One's The One Ronnie, notably the Blackberry Sketch.In 2012, they authored their own BBC sketch show, Dawson Bros. Funtime featuring YouTube stars Chris Kendall (aka crabstickz) and Jenny Bede, alongside comedy performers Mike Wozniak and Cariad Lloyd, and featuring the voice of Peter Serafinowicz.Dawson Bros. also produce an occasional series of web animations called "I'd Like To Have Been In That Meeting..." with animator Richard Whitelock and comic performers Dan Benoliel and Jonny Donahoe, one of which features the voice of Dana Snyder; and were staff writers for the online comedy website Funny or Die UK.
In 2013 they co-wrote the BBC One sitcom Big School, alongside David Walliams. The series aired across August and September of that year and was subsequently recommissioned; the second series aired in Autumn 2014.
Working with David Walliams again, Dawson Bros. co-created and co-wrote the BBC One sketch show Walliams & Friend in 2015. A Christmas special starring Joanna Lumley aired on Christmas Eve that year followed by a full series run in 2016 featuring Jack Whitehall, Harry Enfield, Sheridan Smith, Meera Syal, Miranda Richardson and Hugh Bonneville.Goodness Gracious Me (TV series)
Goodness Gracious Me is a BBC English-language sketch comedy show originally aired on BBC Radio 4 from 1996 to 1998 and later televised on BBC Two from 1998 to 2001. The ensemble cast were four British Indian actors, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Syal and Nina Wadia. The show explored British Asian culture, and the conflict and integration between traditional South Asian culture and modern British life. Some sketches reversed the roles to view the British from a South Asian perspective, and others poked fun at South Asian stereotypes. In the television series, most of the white characters were played by Dave Lamb and Fiona Allen; in the radio series those parts were played by the cast themselves. Some of the white characters were also played by Amanda Holden, Fiona Allen and Emma Kennedy.
The show's title and theme tune is a bhangra rearrangement of a hit comedy song of the same name, originally performed by Peter Sellers (portraying an Indian doctor, Ahmed el Kabir) and Sophia Loren, reprising their characters from the 1960 film, The Millionairess. Sellers sings the song in a stereotypical "cod-Indian" accent, acceptable as a comic device at the time but by the 1990s was considered dated and belittling. Consequently, the show's original working title was "Peter Sellers is Dead"; this was changed as the cast admired Sellers' other work, as well as the fact that although Sellers' Indian doctor was a parody, the actor still portrayed him as a competent professional. (In her 1996 novel Anita and Me, Syal had referred to British parodies of south Asian speech as "a goodness-gracious-me accent".)
The cast casually drop Punjabi and Hindi slang phrases into their speech, in the manner of many British Asians living in the UK.
The show won Best Entertainment at the Broadcasting Press Guild Award and the Team Award from the Royal Television Society, UK in 1999.
In March 2014, the BBC announced that the show would return with a special episode as part of celebrations of fifty years of BBC Two. An India special was broadcast on BBC Two on 25 August 2015.HOME (Manchester)
HOME is a centre for international contemporary art, theatre and film in Manchester, England, that opened in 2015.HOME was formed by the merger of two Manchester-based arts organisations, Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company.The project was funded by Manchester City Council and the Garfield Weston Foundation. Arts Council England HOME operates under a service contract with Manchester City Council to provide social benefit to the community.In 2014, filmmaker Danny Boyle became a patron, along with actress and comedian Meera Syal, director Nicholas Hytner, novelist and poet Jackie Kay, filmmaker Asif Kapadia, actress Suranne Jones, artist Phil Collins and visual artist Rosa Barba.Handsworth Songs
Handsworth Songs is a 1986 film directed by John Akomfrah and produced by Lina Gopaul. It was filmed during the 1985 riots in Handsworth and London. The production company was the Black Audio Film Collective, who also wrote the screenplay. With cinematography by Sebastian Shah and music by Trevor Mathison, there were voice-overs by Pervais Khan, Meera Syal, Yvonne Weekes, Sachkhand Nanak Dham and Mr. McClean. A full list of cast and credits appears on the BFI Screenonline.Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation
Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation was a BBC Radio 4 series of comedy lectures hosted by Jeremy Hardy, first broadcast in September 1993. The tenth and final series aired in 2014.
The lectures were on topics like "How to have a baby", "How to be truly loved", and often included Hardy's personal views on current affairs.
There were a series of sketches and mock interviews carried out with his two guests. Gordon Kennedy and Debbie Isitt were the two main guests, while other guests included Meera Syal, Rebecca Front, Alison Steadman, Stephen Frost, Miranda Richardson and Harriet Walter.Keeping Mum (TV series)
Keeping Mum is a British sitcom, written by Geoffrey Atherden and broadcast on BBC1 for two series between 1997 and 1998.
It starred Stephanie Cole as the main character, Peggy Beare, Martin Ball and David Haig as her sons and Meera Syal as her daughter-in-law.Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee
Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee is a 1999 novel by Meera Syal that was later adapted into a three-part BBC television miniseries in 2005.Linda Green
Linda Green is a British television comedy-drama series that lasted for two series, screened in 2001 and 2002. The twenty half-hour episodes (ten in each season) were broadcast on BBC One and produced for the BBC by the independent Red Production Company.
The programme was focused on the life of the eponymous title character, a thirty-something woman who works as a car saleswoman by day and sings in a club at night. The programme follows her various trials and tribulations in love and her relationships with her friends, in particular Jimmy McKenzie (Sean Gallagher), a mechanic at the car showroom where Linda works, and with whom she enjoys sexual relations when she feels like it, and Michelle Fenton (Claire Rushbrook), a chiropodist, and Darren Alexander (Daniel Ryan), a kitchen-fitter. The latter two characters are a cohabiting couple with children, Jamie (Lee Shepherd) and Leanne (Jodie Hamblet), and, in Series 2, a new baby, Eric. Despite the demands of parenthood, Michelle and Darren enjoy frequent nights out, usually at the club, with Linda and Jimmy. Linda's mother, Iris, who works as a clerk in the magistrates' court, is played by Rachel Davies, and her father, Frank, a deputy headteacher, by Dave Hill. Linda also has two siblings, both considerably younger than her: the very bright Katie (Jessica Harris), in whom Linda frequently confides, and the easy-going Philip, a.k.a. Fizz (Bruno Langley), who is hoping to join the Army, rather against his father's wishes. As well as being the eldest child, Linda is also her father's favourite, although he is always careful never to treat the other two less favourably. Both Frank and Iris are always ready to provide a shoulder to cry on when Linda is unhappy, usually as a result of a failed relationship. One of Linda's former boyfriends, the much younger Ricky Pinder (John Donnelly), becomes a semi-regular in the show when he becomes Katie's boyfriend. The other club singer, Coral (Jacinta Sloan) and the club comic (Danny De Bouy) also appear on a semi-regular basis.
The series was created by Paul Abbott, and other writers to pen episodes included Sorted writer Danny Brocklehurst, Catherine Johnson and Russell T Davies. The producer was Phil Collinson.
Linda was played by Liza Tarbuck, well known as a television presenter then rather than as an actress, although she had originally trained as such and acted in ITV sitcom Watching for seven years from 1987. Individual episodes attracted well-known guest stars, such as Christopher Eccleston, David Morrissey, Simon Pegg, Pam Ferris, Anne Reid, Amelia Bullmore, Jamie Theakston, Martin Freeman, Peter Kay, Nicholas Gleaves, Maxine Peake and Meera Syal. It also featured a guest appearance by Tarbuck's father Jimmy Tarbuck, who played her ex-Army paternal uncle, Vic Green. Up and coming stand-ups Sarah Darlington and Jolanta Migdalska also feature. In addition, Andy Devine appeared in one episode as Linda and Jimmy's abrasive and lecherous boss Syd Jenkins, a.k.a. 'Syd With the Wife'.
Although quite popular in its first season, the series proved less so in its second, and it was not renewed again after the second run had come to an end. The second series has never been released on DVD.Shirley Valentine
Shirley Valentine is a one-character play by Willy Russell. Taking the form of a monologue by a middle-aged, working class Liverpool housewife, it focuses on her life before and after a transforming holiday abroad.Sixth Happiness
Sixth Happiness is a 1997 British drama film directed by Indian director Waris Hussein. It is based on the autobiography of Firdaus Kanga entitled Trying to Grow. Kanga played himself in this film about Britain, India, race and sex.
Sixth Happiness is about Brit, a boy born with brittle bones who never grows taller than four feet, and his sexual awakening as family life crumbles around him. It is also about the Parsi or Parsees - descendants of the Persian empire who were driven out of Persia by an Islamic invasion more than a thousand years ago and settled in western India. Parsees had a close relationship with the British during the years of the Raj. Brit is named by his mother, both after his brittle bones, and in tribute to his mother's love of Britain.
Brit's family is non-stereotypical: his parents are ardent Anglophiles with fond memories of the Raj and World War II. Brit is bright, spiky, opinionated and selfish with a razor-sharp wit, never a martyr or victim. He prefers the Kama Sutra to Shakespeare and does not allow gender or disability to come in the way of his desire for sex and love.
Sixth Happiness also features performances from Souad Faress, Nina Wadia, Indira Varma, and Meera Syal.The Big Town All Stars
The Big Town All Stars was a short-lived radio programme that aired from March 1998—July 2001. There were nine half-hour episodes and it was broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It was created by Bill Dare and starred Stephen Tompkinson, Nicola Walker, Adrian Scarborough, Meera Syal, Clive Rowe and Brian Bovell. The plot revolved around the members of an amateur acapella group as they tried for success.The Hungry Earth
"The Hungry Earth" is the eighth episode of the fifth series of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast on 22 May 2010 on BBC One. It was written by Chris Chibnall, who had previously written for Doctor Who and its spin-off series, Torchwood. It is the first episode of a two-part story, the second episode being "Cold Blood", and features the return of the Silurians, a reptile-like humanoid race last seen in 1984's Warriors of the Deep.
In the episode, the Eleventh Doctor—a time travelling alien played by Matt Smith—and his companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) land in Wales in 2020, where a drilling operation headed by Nasreen Chaudhry (Meera Syal) is drilling deep into the earth and disrupting a civilisation of Silurians who dwell beneath the earth. The Silurians cause holes to open in the earth, one of which consumes Amy. The Doctor and Rory capture one Silurian, Alaya (Neve McIntosh), and the Doctor instructs Rory and a local family to not harm Alaya, as it could spark a war. He then takes Nasreen in the TARDIS to the Silurian civilisation to rescue Amy and kidnapped locals Mo (Alun Raglan) and Elliot (Samuel Davies).
Executive producers Steven Moffat and Piers Wenger contacted Chibnall and asked him to write a two-part episode involving Silurians and a drill. Moffat wished to redesign the Silurians and worked together with Chibnall to create the idea of distinguishing prosthetics for their faces. Being in the fourth production block of the series, the episode was filmed in October and November 2009, with location filming in Llanwynno, Wales. McIntosh then returned in the series as a recurrent actress, portraying Madame Vastra, another Silurian character. The episode was watched by 6.49 million viewers on BBC One and BBC HD and received mixed reviews from critics. While some praised the horror, some noted that the story was very simplistic, and critics disagreed about the redesigned Silurians.The Real McCoy (TV series)
The Real McCoy was a BBC Television comedy show that ran from 1991 to 1996, featuring an array of black and Asian comedy stars performing material with various comedy sketches and musical guests such as the musical group Soul II Soul.UK comedy stars that featured in the series included: the comedy acts Robbie Gee, Curtis and Ishmael, Judith Jacob, Collette Johnson, Llewella Gideon, Meera Syal, Perry Benson, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Leo Chester, Kulvinder Ghir, Rudi Lickwood, Eddie Nestor, Marcus Powell, Junior Simpson and Curtis Walker and Felix Dexter.
The producer of the first two series, Charlie Hanson, was the co-founder of the Black Theatre Co-operative and had produced No Problem! and Desmond's before creating The Real McCoy. He was working with Curtis and Ishmael on the 291 Club at the Hackney Empire and suggested making a television version, but instead, the BBC opted for a totally new sketch series, launching The Real McCoy.In spite of its popularity it has yet to be released on DVD. It was made available for download on the short-lived BBC Store.When Were We Funniest?
When Were We Funniest? is a Gold documentary series broadcast in 2008.