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Arts & Culture

Sanjeev Bhaskar And The Indian Doctor

Audrey inspects a film
WAMC
Audrey inspects a film

British actor/comedian/author Sanjeev Bhaskar is known in the U.S. mainly for his role as DI Sunny Khan (he who carries the much-discussed backpack!) in the popular ITV crime series Unforgotten. After a shake-up at the end of series 4, which recently aired on PBS and is available on DVD and for streaming, an announcement confirmed that there will be a season 5, and Sanjeev Bhaskar will continue to be starred or co-starred.

Much of Bhaskar’s career has been limited to films and TV shown in Britain, but there is plenty to be discovered about this very talented man here in the U.S. By visiting websites such as Wikipedia or imdb.com, it becomes apparent that Bhaskar has an impressive career. He’s been awarded an OBE -- Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Much of his work has been in comedy. He and his wife, comedian Meera Syal, appeared with a small cast and a slew of very famous guest stars in 53 episodes, 7 series, of an hilarious TV comedy show called The Kumars at No. 42 in 2002-2006 which was reprised in 2014. Bhaskar plays a young man whose well-to-do parents set him up in a studio at the rear of their home so that he can be a talk show host. They kibibtz with him unrelentingly as he tries to act like a bigshot celebrity. One only hopes this series will be available for streaming in the future.

Another of his comedy series is Goodness Gracious Me, with a sketch comedy format, available by subscription on Britbox.

Bhaskar really shows his versatility as an actor in the three-season series The Indian Doctor which Kino Lorber has just released on Blu-ray. It also is available for streaming by subscription. Originally broadcast from 2010-2013, the show focuses on the character of Dr. Prem Sharma, a primary care physician who travels with his wonderful wife Kamini from India to a small mining village in Wales. It is the early 1960s. The National Health Service allows all the villagers access to medical help.

Kamini is played by Ayesha Dharker, who is known to Star Wars fans as Queen Jamillia, the Queen of Naboo. Bhaskar and Dharker also appeared together in the Ismail Merchant comedy-drama, The Mystic Masseur from 2001. I do recommend this feature, which is based on the V.S. Naipaul Pulitzer prize-winning novel.

In The Indian Doctor, the character of Kamini clearly is an aristocrat, and she finds it difficult to settle into village life. Some of the villagers have problems getting accustomed to the Sharmas, and some make racist remarks, but many more are welcoming.

There is serious drama in The Indian Doctor, but much of the show is devoted to heart-warming situations that occur between the various village personalities and the Sharmas. There are many situations of light comedy mixed in with normal small-town family life. Seasons 1 and 2 are sheer perfection. I rate them 10 out of ten!

Season 2 is quite timely in theme. The village encounters an epidemic of smallpox. Dr. Sharma advises distancing and quarantines and brings in vaccinations from Cardiff. But many of the villagers refuse to act properly to avoid infection, and most refuse to be vaccinated. It’s difficult to believe these episodes were written close to a decade ago! Such happenings might be on the nightly news!

Season 3 also is very entertaining, but the writers introduced a plot featuring a couple of con artists who attempt to swindle the villagers. This plot intrudes upon the basic bones of the show. Still, The Indian Doctor is one of the best series I’ve seen in the past few years.

When it comes to the talent and versatility, and pure charm, of Sanjeev Bhaskar, there is much for American audiences to discover.

Audrey Kupferberg is a film and video archivist and appraiser. She is lecturer emeritus and the former director of Film Studies at the University at Albany and co-authored several entertainment biographies with her late husband and creative partner, Rob Edelman.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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