name of Kulvinder Ghir may not necessarily be a household one, but
as one quarter of the highly successful 'Goodness Gracious Me' team,
you will almost certainly know who he is.
Goodness Gracious Me - Kulvinder (far left) with Meera Syal,
producer Anil Gupta, Nina Wadia, and Sanjeev Bhaskar
coupled with this he is one of Britains most successful actors,
appearing in Bend It Like Beckham and Rita, Sue and Bob Too and
plays such as Trevor Griffith's Thatcher's Children as well as stints
with the Royal National Theatre and many others. He is now making
his debut with the RSC.
has certainly come a long way since his days as a Yorkshire market
trader who plied his theatrical trade in Working Mens clubs
as a comedian and impressionist. But it was the ability to conquer
tough audiences like those that put him in good stead for the world
of stage, film and TV and made him such a versatile performer.
is currently touring the country with the RSC in their acclaimed
adaptation of Salman Rushdies Booker Prize-winning novel Midnights
Children, following successful runs in London and New York.
managed to catch up with him in his dressing room and get a few
minutes of his time before he had to go and have his large prosthetic
nose fitted and prepare for the three hour epic!
out more about Midnights Children >>
would you encourage people to come and see Midnights Children?
a fantastical journey, where you are taken through whats been
happening in the last 70 years in India, which will help people
understand where they are today.
I think that we really take people on a journey and it's very
educational in that sense, especially for people who don't know
about India's history.
Ghir on Midnight's Children
play is also light and its touching. Its an important
play for today, and at the same time its also a celebration
of Rushdies writing.
also a great joy to see 20 Asian actors, or actors with multiracial
backgrounds coming on and performing.
it's intriguing. Ive found this all the time that Ive
been working on it and its still growing. Its a fresh
new piece of work, its an interesting piece of work and each
night is different night as well!
the members of the company play many different parts in the play,
your main character is Adam. Can you tell me a bit about him?
Adam is a doctor and is quite radical in his beliefs when the play
kicks off in 1915. He renounces religion and has a humanity of his
has an essential ideology about where he is heading as a Muslim,
working and growing up in India. I would say that he is more of
a socialist in his views at that time but at the same time he wants
a free India and doesnt want to see his country segregated
into pieces like Pakistan or Bangladesh.
is a passionate man and very passionate about his beliefs,
but although he starts off the play being an optimist, as time develops
and the play goes on the optimism is taken away from him due to
what India goes through.
book is enormous, packed with over 60 years of history. Does it
translate well onto the stage?
I think it does. I think that we really take people on a journey
and it's very educational in that sense, especially for people who
don't know about India's history.
if we did the whole of the book it wouldn't be a three hour play,
it would be an eight hour play. But in the translation that we have
with Salman working on it as much as much as Simon Reade [former
RSC dramaturg, and co-Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic] and
Tim Supple [also the director] we've made it an event within itself.
are also many different aspects of style used within the piece to
translate the story. As well as physical theatre and music there
are different types of media used such as the large screen and this
makes it unique. In this way there's a freshness about this production.
It has its moments of poetry in the pathos and there's great humour
in it as well. I think that this really lends to the piece as it's
not as heavy as people might think it is.
it's not judgemental, the factual storytelling makes you actually
decide where history lies.
the book have an impact on you?
I have never labelled myself as an Asian actor just as an actor.
very much so. I hadn't read it before I came to the play but when
I decided to do it I obviously read the book and during the rehearsal
period it just came off the page fantastically. To physicalise this
book is a mammoth task and it's a fantastic thing for the RSC to
take it on board.
must be exhausted?!
[he laughs] but doing the tour and performing to so many different
audiences is just a joy again. There are always different audiences,
and in this way you can see how the play works on many different
levels. Its interesting to see how each audience receives
it in different parts of the country.
had a very varied career and started off at a young age as an impressionist
in working men's clubs. How did you get from there to here?
The first time I set foot on a stage doing impressions I was about
13. I started doing the clubs when I was 15 until I was 17 and then
I headed off to drama school which was a sound step for me to develop
a career in this profession. But in a sense I've never looked back
to where it all began as I'm always looking forward to see where
it will continue.
you found it at all difficult as a British Asian actor not to be
cast as a stereotype?
When we first did it we had no idea it was going to be successful
Ghir on Goodness Gracious Me
that it's important that the route I took was just like any other
actor. I have never labelled myself as an Asian actor just as an
actor. Working in theatre Ive had the opportunity to do both
Shakespeare and contemporary texts and worked with modern writers
such as Trevor Griffiths. It is the challenge of parts that is needed
for all actors and as long as that variety is there I like to label
myself as a British actor.
RSC has been criticised in the past for not employing non-white
actors in leading roles. Is this production of Midnights Children
a step forward?
when was it that they last had a completely multi-racial British
company like this? But it would be nice to come back and do a Shakespeare
a quarter of the Goodness Gracious Me cast you've had the opportunity
to play a big part in the symbiosis of British and Asian culture.
In fact. It was described by The Times as the oil of race
relations. Why do you think that the series has been so successful?
we first did it we had no idea it was going to be successful and
it wasn't a preplanned thing of what would work and what wouldn't.
I think it was successful because it came from us. We dug deep into
our culture and celebrated it. We dealt with the simple issue of
humanity. I think that when you balance culture with humanity, nobody
is that much different from anybody else and that's what made the
generation have grown up now and whether it be a black family, an
Asian family or a white family, they all have their individual problems
this second generation are more confident?
- much more, and we are able to celebrate the Indian in our culture
as well as the British Asian culture that we have.
as Chunky Lafunga in Goodness Gracious Me
is going to school in this country that created a particular humour
within us and we [the Goodness Gracious Me team] found a way where
we could balance our own cultural roots with what we learnt growing
up here. I think that those are the elements that helped to make
it work, as well as turning things on their head [such as the infamous
Going Out For an English text] and any one can relate
was also great about the programme is that it covered all age groups,
from six-year-olds to 70-year-olds, because they could all relate
to the same situation. So the programme was successful without realising
there was an audience out there for it.
was also just very funny which is why it was successful, and it
was comedy from a new perspective, moving away from the white, male,
middle class humour that we so often see on our screens. But comedy
isnt neutral, it depends on what people are laughing at. Did
you ever worry that people were laughing at the culture rather than
was assumed that from the responses that we had it was more about
being able to laugh at yourself as much as within your community.
But we never ever went out to undermine any culture or any form
of religion we just thought "this makes us laugh".
Coopers in Goodness Gracious Me
sketches were close to us and our families because they were coming
from us, we were just very, very lucky that other people related
to it and found it funny as well.
you have a favourite sketch or character from the series?
[Lafunga' a stereotype of a slimey Bollywood hunk], is a fun character
and the Coopers are again extraordinary. But there are such a variety
of characters that I really enjoy playing all of them.
have done so much its hard to pick out just a few things
to talk to you about but I recently saw the hit film Bend It Like
Beckham. What was it like being part of that?
Ghir as Subi in The Wedding Party
it was a fantastic experience. Id known Gurinder [Chadha ]
the director beforehand and the whole thing was a great joy because
I was working with old friends. Not just the core that I normally
work with from Goodness Gracious Me, but lots of old friends from
the theatre, television and film work I had done were working on
it as well, and that was a great celebration.
story was also very simply and beautifully told. It worked on many
different levels but it wasnt being shoved down your throat.
I really enjoyed dancing as well!
are you most proud of in your career so far?
quite proud of the whole lot actually because Ive had such
a diverse career. Ive never been static in one place and I
always wanted to do that. And touch wood that will carry on!
you choose your parts now?
a level, yes. You get scripts through, you look at the work and
you feel what you want to be involved in and if you can bring anything
to it. The most important thing is working with the right people.
Ive got more choice now than at any other time, but whether
that will last I dont know!
Anwar as Sita and Kulvinder as Aftab in Mela Mania, a comedy
recorded at the 2001 Mela Festival in Bradford
that the current Indian or Asian trend, or the minority trend or
whatever they want to call it, doesnt finish because it gives
us much more variety within our lives and the ability to create.
I think thats where its a very positive thing for this
there a part youd still really like to play? Hamlet or something?
- at the moment Shakespeare intrigues me maybe even Macbeth,
now that would be an idea! But it must be something thats
going to challenge me again. I dont really look for a particular
part or say that this is what I would like to play. Its more
to do with when its feasibly possible to do it and somebody
believes that you can actually perform and achieve it. Then it gives
me an extra joy to play and perform it.
long as the work is challenging and the quality is there, Ill
our review of Midnight's Children >>
Kumar, High Wycombe
18-Mar-2004 13:42:53 GMT
is a great story I always watch goodness gracious me because
it is the best asian program ever!!! I am look to be in an asian
program because I love t act and i am a great actor! Im currently
trying to look for acting work.