The BBC has announced a major new season of programmes across television and radio dedicated to one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world - India.
The season will be a celebration of the richness of the landscape and people of the country as well as its culture, art, business and politics.
On BBC One there will be a major exploration of the past, present and future of India through the remarkable story of Kolkata, fronted by Sue Perkins and entitled Sue Perkins in Kolkata.
On BBC Two the season will go behind the scenes of The World’s Busiest Railway 2015 in Mumbai with Dan Snow, Anita Rani and Robert Llewellyn (pictured) and celebrate the glory of India’s wild world through the eyes of three special guides, scientist Liz Bonnin, actor Freida Pinto and mountaineer Jon Gupta in The Wonders Of India.
Also on Two is a special new episode of the ground-breaking Asian sketch show, Goodness Gracious Me. BBC Four offers the opportunity to explore Indian culture in more depth with Dr Sona Datta, revealing the treasures that have shaped the modern Indian world in Treasures Of The Indus. William Darymple unearths the story of the White Mughals, while the channel is also making Mumbai High - A Musical, a unique documentary musical filmed in Dharavi in Mumbai, the biggest slum in Asia,
Kim Shillinglaw, Controller of BBC Two and Four, says: “I’m delighted to be celebrating the rich and surprising wonders of India across this ambitious season of programmes. On BBC Two, we’ll be taking viewers from the absolute highlights of India's natural world to the inner workings of one of the biggest rail hubs on the planet, as well as welcoming back the Goodness Gracious Me team for a special India-themed episode with special guest Art Malik. BBC Four offers a wide range of cultural programming including an in-depth portrait of the origins of Indian civilisation and a spectacular musical documentary filmed at a high school in Mumbai.”
Sue Perkins says: “At the start of this journey there were two things I knew about Kolkata: The Black Hole and Mother Theresa. It was a privilege to experience life beyond the clichés and to witness the vibrancy, chaos and multiculturalism of Bengal first hand. I was so taken with it, I've even become a cricket fan (Go Kolkata Knight Riders!)”
Sanjeev Bhaskar says: "India’s movie industry - the largest in the world - has survived and flourished for over 100 years, on a heady mix of three ‘M’’s: Morality tales, Melodrama and Music. From the silent era, through infant independent nation to burgeoning economic superpower, Indian films have consistently found audiences at home but also increasingly, via the diaspora, a significant presence around the world. India’s films are one of the great cultural survivors of the modern creative age.
In an exploration of the past, present and future, Sue Perkins journeys to India for the first time to unravel the story of the country through the life of one of its most beguiling and exuberant cities, Kolkata.
Sue Perkins in Kolkata is a one-off 60 minute film for BBC One made by Indus Films which will see Sue immerse herself into the complex life of the city. In the programme, she sees first-hand how Kolkata has evolved from a place notorious for its fabled 'Black Hole' dungeon and the dreadful poverty of its street people to a place re-inventing itself as a vibrant new megacity, with a booming property sector and a reputation for eccentricity, culture and tolerance.
In this intricate human habitat, Sue will explore the lives of its people, from the 250,000 homeless street kids hustling for a living, to the wealthy young entrepreneurs who race their Ferraris and Lamborghinis down the streets of the New Town. She will join the rickshaw wallahs navigating the chaotic city streets and narrow lanes, thronged with people, and descend into Kolkatta's Victorian sewers as part of an epic clean up. And she'll limber up with the ladies of the Laughing Club and makes an offering to the Goddess in the sacred Kalighat Temple.
No other city tells the remarkable story of India more clearly than the beautiful, crazy, colourful city of Kolkata and through encounters with people from every strata of society, from the richest to the poorest, Sue will paint a picture of contemporary India, emerging from a brutal Colonial past to take its place among the most powerful nations on Earth.
In World’s Busiest Railway 2015, Dan Snow, Anita Rani and Robert Llewellyn experience the rush hour and go behind the scenes over four hour-long episodes to reveal the ‘everyday miracle’ that is India’s busiest railway station: the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai.
In Mumbai, rush hour is known as 'super dense crush load' and every day more than 1,500 trains pull in and out of its 18 platforms, on local and long distance routes, with more people travelling on the suburban network in Mumbai than travel on the whole of the UK rail network each day. With access to control rooms and signal boxes, driver’s cabs and engineering workshops, as well as the policemen, porters and dabba wallas who direct, help and feed travellers, this series will tell the story of the megacity of Mumbai - its station and its transport challenges.
Without the railways, modern India simply wouldn’t exist and these programmes promise to be a revealing journey into the everyday workings of an extraordinary station.
The Wonders Of India are 2 x 60’ films from the BBC’s award-winning Natural History Unit which capture the glory of India’s wild world through the eyes of three special guides, scientist Liz Bonnin, actor Freida Pinto and mountaineer Jon Gupta.
India is a land where the natural world has been woven into people’s lives, a place where you can see animals that exist nowhere else on earth and where wilderness still holds strong. For Freida, India is home, and she wants to celebrate the rich bond the people of India have with their natural world. Liz has been fascinated by India for many years - her ancestry includes Indian heritage and she’s drawn to the iconic wildlife. Jon’s grandfather was born in the foothills of the Himalayas and Jon is a mountaineer and expedition leader. He’s climbed Everest, but he’s never been to India until now.
In this two-part series the three presenters will choose encounters that best reveal the wonder of India’s wildlife and how the natural world is woven into Indian culture. They will celebrate the diversity and flavours of the Indian subcontinent in all its glory; from the roof of world in the north to the great rivers and deserts at its heart and the rainforests of the south. These are the landscapes where some of the most incredible creatures on earth make their home. The colours, sights and sounds of India are unique and together they provide an unforgettable wildlife experience for Liz, Freida and Jon.
After the successful reunion in 2014, the cast of Goodness Gracious Me are returning for another one-off special of the ground-breaking British Asian sketch show. Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Nina Wadia and Kulvinder Ghir with Dave Lamb are back together for this special India-themed episode. Featuring all-new sketches, including twists on old favourites, such as the origins of the Kapoors (pronounced 'Cooper') and the Competitive Goddesses, as well as a visit to the WW1 trenches with Captain Brownadder and original plans for the Taj Mahal, with special guest Art Malik.
Sanjeev Bhaskar presents a retrospective 90-minute documentary on the history of Indian cinema in Bollywood And Beyond: A Century Of Indian Cinema made by Spring Films and Avatar Films. More than any other art form, in any other country, Indian cinema speaks for the people. It is adored, its stars are idolised and it is watched by a daily audience of over 15 million, in 13,000 cinemas across the sub-continent.
Anchored by a live stand-up show, Sanjeev gets under the skin of Indian Cinema and sees how it has grown from humble beginnings to become a truly global industry. This is a journey of discovery to find out what Bollywood means today and how it has changed since films like Mother India, Deewar and Sholay that he grew up watching during the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of Bollywood.
Along the way he meets some of the greatest stars in Bollywood - including megastars Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor, legendary script writers like Javed Akhtar, choreographers, playback singers, producers, critics and die-hard fans who reveal the rich tapestry of history woven by Indian cinema over the last 100 years. With remarkable access, this documentary celebrates India's most important and iconic films and discovers how the story of cinema reflects the history of the nation.
Mumbai High - A Musical is a single film produced by Century Films, the makers of groundbreaking documentary musicals such as Feltham Sings, Songbirds and Drinking For England. In Mumbai High - A Musical, the ambition and format is pushed even further with the introduction of a big dance element and a fusion of musical styles - Bollywood meets urban hip hop in a dizzying and unique musical extravaganza. It is in Dharavi in Mumbai, the biggest slum in Asia, where this spectacular film is made, combining observational footage of the children’s daily lives, with songs reflecting their hopes and dreams. Set in a school in the heart of the slum, this is a unique, rich seam of music and dance through the eyes of the children, set out to tell a wider tale of India.
Treasures Of The Indus is 3 x 60’ episodes made by Tern TV, which tell the story of the Indian Sub-Continent through the treasures that have shaped the modern Indian world. From the plains of Pakistan to the foothills of the Himalayas, from Northern India and Rajasthan to the deep South and Tamil Nadu, Dr Sona Datta explores this vast melting pot of diverse civilisations, religions, cultures and glorious landscapes that has given us some of the greatest artistic golden ages on earth.
The series will chart the history of the Indus Valley, telling the relatively unknown story that stretches back 4,500 years to the Ancient Indus civilisation who gave us, amongst other things, the decimal system. Sona explores the art of the Mughals, who created the most famous and dazzling empire that India has ever seen, from the Taj Mahal to fabulously intricate miniatures of court life. She questions whether the Mughals were trying to impose their own religion of Islam or indeed whether they were open to the religion and art of the country they were trying to conquer; and she discovers some of the 33,000 sacred temples hewn from rock, sandstone and marble in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
In The White Mughal: A Story In Art from Edenwood Productions, historian William Dalrymple travels to the Deccan Plains of India to explore the remarkable love affair between British diplomat James Achilles Kirkpatrick and Khair un-Nissa, the Muslim princess he married. Through the 18th century art and architecture of both countries, and in archives across both continents, Dalrymple unearths a story of seduction and betrayal at odds with the conventional boundaries of empire.
As part of the BBC India Season, Radio 2, 6 Music and Asian Network are enjoying an 'Indian Summer'.
On BBC Radio 2, Bollywood superstar Shilpa Shetty presents a four-part guide to the music and glamour of the Indian film industry in Hooray For Bollywood, With Shilpa Shetty. Over the hour-long shows she plays her favourite tracks and tells stories from behind-the-scenes with some of Bollywood's biggest stars. All things India will also be reflected throughout Radio 2’s daytime output with Preeya Kalidas, star of the hit West End show Bend It Like Beckham, choosing The Tracks Of My Years on the Ken Bruce show. Simon Mayo will be contemplating the curries of the country, Jeremy Vine will run India themed items across the week, and both Chris Evans and Steve Wright will feature guests to tie in with proceedings. The Radio 2 Arts Show hosted by Claudia Winkleman celebrates the magical myriad that is the Indian Art World in a two-hour India Special; Elaine Paige celebrates India on the West End stage, and Bollywood experts Raj & Pablo transport us to the glamorous world of Indian cinema to reflect on 100 years of history in The Jewel In The Crown.
Plus, Jo Whiley and Bobby Friction team up to front an extravaganza celebrating the marvellous music of the Indian subcontinent. The music showcase will be simulcast live on both Radio 2 and Asian Network and will feature Anoushka Shankar, daughter of maestro sitarist Ravi Shankar. She will be playing live and speaking about her music career and her relationship with her sister Norah Jones, who accompanies her on the new album. Plus, there will be live music from Hindi producer Niraj Chag, Bollywood Desi-pop musician Raghav and Urban-Asian rapper, Raxstar.
BBC Radio 3 reflects the India season across both its speech and music programming in September. Indian author Amitav Ghosh reveals his Private Passions to Michael Berkeley (Sunday 13 September), William Dalrymple tells a remarkable history of India through five classic images of Indian art and sculpture in The Essay: India Through its Art (Monday 14 - Friday 18 September) and in a special edition of Free Thinking (Thursday 17 September) Rana Mitter explores the growing body of new academic research on Indian History, in a programme that includes BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers. On Friday 18 September, World on 3 is at Southbank Centre’s Darbar Festival with musicians from North and South India. Presented by Lopa Kothari, sarod player Abhisek Lahiri makes his London debut with Pandit Ramkumar Mishra alongside sisters Ranjani and Gayatri with Carnatic ragas.
BBC Asian Network will be taking a look at ‘Future India’ with a focus on Arts and Entertainment. Bobby Friction will present an Asian Network Presents special featuring India’s most successful modern composer AR Rahman, with highlights from his concert at London’s O2. Asian Network’s new music specialist Yasser presents a future Indian music special showcasing the key artists shaping India’s dance and hip-hop scenes; Nihal presents a morning phone-in dedicated to the topic of India’s future, and Shilpa Shetty gives the inside track on the Indian film industry in her two-part series - Bollywood Superstar.
On BBC Radio 6 Music, Bobby Friction will chart the course of music from India and its influence on British artists over the years. In this special one-off show he will be flying the flag for alternative beats & riffs coming out of the Subcontinent right now.
BBC World Service will reflect highlights of the BBC India season and offer a complementary range of radio programmes for global audiences looking at modern India through culture, business and politics. With all eyes on India’s dynamic economic growth, BBC World Service will be in India for a week of business programmes, including Business Matters, which will focus on the people whose daily lives underpin the country’s economy. On politics, a special edition of current affairs programme Newshour Extra will explore how the world sees contemporary India, the challenges facing Prime Minister Modi and the momentum for change.
BBC World Service will capture the dynamism of Indian culture highlighting India’s up-and-coming musical talent as part of our series looking at different global beats, and broadcasting direct from Delhi for an India-focussed edition of The Arts Hour. On digital platforms, BBC World Service will involve its audience through social media to showcase Indians sharing their India with the world.
Notes to Editors
All programmes as part of the season to air later in 2015.
Sue Perkins in Kolkata (Working title 1 x60’) is produced by Indus Films. The Executive Producer is Lucy Carter. The Commissioning Editor is Clare Paterson.
World’s Busiest Railway (4x60’) is produced by the BBC In-house Productions. The Executive Producer is Lisa Ausden. The Commissioning Editors are Tom McDonald and Craig Hunter.
Wonders of India (2 x 60’) is produced by the BBC’s Natural History Unit. The Executive Producer is Julian Hector. The Commissioning Editor is Tom McDonald.
Goodness Gracious Me (1 x 30’) is produced by BBC In-house Productions. The Executive Producer is Anil Gupta and Nick Wood is the director. The Commissioning Editor is Shane Allen
Bollywood and Beyond: A Century of Indian Cinema (1 x 90’) is produced by Spring Films. The Executive Producer is Richard Melman. The Commissioning Editor is Greg Sanderson.
Treasures of the Indus (3 x 60’) is produced by Tern TV. The Executive Producer is Harry Bell. The Commissioning Editor is Greg Sanderson.
The White Mughals is produced by Edenwood Productions. The Executive Producer is Lydia Conway. The Commissioning Editor is Mark Bell.
Mumbai High - A Musical is produced by Century Films. The Executive Producer is Kate Townsend. The Commissioning Editor is Jan Younghusband.