Wednesday, August 8

Sanjeev and Saira

As part of their India and Pakistan '07 season, the BBC broadcasted a couple of documentaries about the two countries. The twist here was to send two British Asian personalities with links to India and Pakistan on a journey of self-discovery, blah, blah and blah.

I just finished watching both two-parters and I wasn't impressed. Although the first part of each were actually passable, it was the conclusion of both that showed up the flaws in the whole lot.

My main grievance was with the choice of presenters, each so wrong in their own ways. Briefly, Sanjeev Bhaskar seemed a bit lost and redundant, seemingly not realising the important role he was to play for these two hours; he just became downright offensive in the second hour, apparently regressing back to how he was during the great GGM days; faux Indian accents galore and all that.

Perhaps it's because I was more interested in the Pakistan series, but I was even more upset with Saira Khan. I was going to criticise her for using the show to propagate her own neo-Islamist feminist agenda, but on reflection that would have been giving her way too much credit.

My main issue was her sheer level of ignorance. It almost reached an obnoxious level: like when she kept "looking for women", expressed surprise in the beauty and pluralism of Islam or pretty patronisingly showed appreciation of paintings (apparently purely because they were of dancing girls).

There were some good points though. I liked Saira's coverage of Karachi for instance, as well as Sanjeev's crossing of the Indo-Pak border at Wagah. There were also many poignant moments in both that made me want to go back to Pakistan immidiately (and visit India even more).

But overall the programming was poor and from what I've heard from others I'm not alone in thinking this, while Asians In Media have also picked up the story. I understand that these were personal reflections on the two countries, but I don't feel that they justified how they turned out; and as an indication of this one just had to watch Anita Rani as she did Calcutta, also this week: she seemed less "shocked" by Real India(tm), obviously less bothered by the British born baggage we all have. She was hotter than the other two presenters too (although I don't think this mattered much).

Oh well. This isn't the end of the Beeb's coverage of the anniversary of partition, so perhaps there'll be some redemption before it's all over. If not, well, there's always 2017, eh?