Story added:  5:03pm Wed Mar 15, 2017
Culture clash still real 40 years on
Culture clash still real 40 years on
Anita And Me
Meena Kumar (Aasiya Shah) and her mother, Daljit (Shobna Gulati) left.
A hilarious adaptation of Meera Syal’s novel Anita And Me had the audience at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, in fits of laughter — but came with a very important message.

It told the story of British actress Meena Kumar and her struggles growing up in Tollington, a small mining village during the 1970s.

At times the audience was left speechless as the play, which runs until Saturday, portrayed the difficulties and racism families from Pakistan and India faced almost 40 years ago.

Aasiya Shah played Meena exceptionally well — a light-hearted 12-year-old girl adamant she would enjoy the school holidays.

We saw the struggles Meena felt trying to fit in with British life, make friends and embrace her own Indian culture — all at the same time.

Meena made friends with neighbour Anita Rutter (Laura Aramaye) and local rascal Sam Cole (Sam Lowbridge).

But it soon became clear Meena and Anita had very different views on families, education and culture.

Meena tried to fit in with other girls in the village, wanting to dye her hair blonde, listen to music and eat fish fingers and chips for dinner.

At the same time, she was trying to respect the views of her parents who emigrated from India — her pregnant mother, Daljit, played by former Coronation Street star Shobna Gulati, and father, Shyam (Robert Mountford).

Scenes with Meena’s grandmother, Nanima (Rina Fatania) had us in stitches with her comical personality but kind heart.

There were plenty of light-hearted moments, including a mix of Morris dancing and Bollywood bhangra and dancing, put together by musical director Tarek Merchant.

And we saw plenty of beautiful sarees, traditional Indian clothing worn by women.

Anita’s aunt, Shaila (Sejal Keshwala) uncle, Amman (Aaron Virdee) and daughters, Pinky and Baby, often visited the family in Tollington.

Shaila always arrived with boxes of food, a common tradition in Pakistani and Indian cultures.

She constantly encouraged Daljit and Shyam to move to Wolverhampton because there were more Hindu families in the area, and she thought the family would feel less isolated.

The audience was left feeling uncomfortable, however, after Anita and Sam were involved in an assault on a Wolverhampton council worker over a row about a council wanting to build a motorway through the village, demolishing a secondary school.

Racist taunts were made — the wake-up call Meena needed to see what real friends are.

The scenes were a brassy reminder of the barriers people faced then and can still see today, 40 years on.
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