Tandoori Nights was created by Farrukh Dhondy for C4, who was also a top exec for the channel. For series 2 Meera Syal wrote the opening episode, and it's a cracker. In this episode you see a lot of things she would develop and that play to her strengths as a writer- creating a vibrant sense of place full of great comic characters- Asian West London (Goodness Gracious Me, Bride and Prejudice etc.)- but this episode shows a sinuousness and complexity that is missing from her crowd pleasing later work- not that this is unfunny- actually it's very funny.
The series is about Jimmy Sharma, played by the great Saeed Jaffrey, a Punjabi Indian restaurant owner who is being undone by his former Bangladeshi waiter and now rival restaurant owner, Rashid (played by that other excellent veteran actor, Baddi Uzzaman).
In this episode, Jimmy is at his nadir and wit's end- The Far Pavillions (the rival restaurant) is puling in the punters with its cheap and cheerful, 'chips with everything' approach. Jimmy, in the vein of great comic characters, sees himself as a superior restaurateur, but with little business, he resorts to an old friend's advice to go on the PR slog and set himself up rather like an Indian Bernard Matthews- which he feels is a debasement.
Meanwhile, his equally stubborn daughters are both playing havoc- one, played by Rita Wolf, is trying to make a documentary for her degree on the Asian Community, while the other, Bubbly (played by Shelley King) is trying her best to lead the community through running a youth centre which is trying to put on a special Community evening- both are diverting resources and attention away from Jimmy'crumbling business, which leads to a head when Jimmy's oddball Bangladeshi chef, Alaudin, is invited to perform for a Community night.
Syal's script cleverly plays with the clichés of Indianness- community and the compromises of migration to a post-colonial West. These are all themes in Syal's (and most other British Asian writer's) work- but is explored so smartly and entertainingly in this episode, in a manner you find with the best British Sit-Coms- like Fawlty Towers and Keeping Up Appearances.
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