Nazrin Choudhury:
Imison winner 2006

-interviewed by Kirsty Lang on "Front Row", Oct 06

KL-The tough choices facing young Asian women in this country have never been so stark as they are now, with the public row over the veil, so it's appropriate that the winner of this year's Imison Award for the best drama script by a writer new to radio should go to Nazrin Choudhury for her play "Mixed Blood".

It's the story of a young British Asian girl called Sharmila who has a white boyfriend but doesn't dare tell her family about it because they're planning to arrange a marriage for her to a suitable Bengali boy. But then she discovers some love letters addressed to her late mother from a man called Peter who's clearly white, and what's more, might even prove to to be Sharmila's real father.

Nazreen is herself of Bengali(sic) origin, but her husband is white. So, when I spoke to her earlier I asked her to what extent the play is based on her own relationship.

NC: Well, it was in many ways, because I'm with someone who's white. Being someone who's from a Bangladeshi community there were several obstacles to overcome. I think a lot of the relationship between my two central characters Sharmila and Dan was reflected by my own experience. The guilt and complex emotions that come out of wanting to be with the person you love but also wanting to fit into the expectations and ideals which your parents have ...

KL: ...twenty-five years have passed between her mother's affair with a white man and her own relationship ... and yet not a lot had changed ...

NC: Often we make assumptions about how a person will react to a certain situation, but what happens may not actually be the case. I think this probably hasn't changed - our feelings - that we can't speak to our parents about it- but what I try and show through the play is that, in fact, Sharmila can talk to her father - and eventually, he does meet Dan and accepts him as being part of Sharmila's life. Our parents are far more liberal than we give them credit for, I suppose....

KL - It's a very affectionate portrait of her father; very loving...I know that you've recently lost your own father; was that an influence on the play?

NC: Yes, I think it was. The play was born out of my own feelings of loss and my relationship with my father; I suppose the play is quite cathartic and really went some way in trying to explore some of the complex emotions I felt as a result of my own loss. I probably haven't exorcised all of those demons yet. It was a very personal experience writing the play.

KL- The loss of a parent often triggers a search for one's own identity...

NC- Absolutely; being a second-generation British Bangladeshi person, I already have that that inherited identity - where I fit in, and I think when you lose your parents that goes further towards exploring issues of your role in your family and with society; it throws up a lot of questions. I wanted the central character to have her whole world thrown into confusion, to question who she is and also to be brave enough to think "I am not my mother; I am the person I am". She has the strength to be who she is, and that's who her mother would have wanted her to be.

KL- This play has real pace and a couple of cliffhanger moments...like when we're about to find out whether her father really is her father...I wonder if this is something which writing for soaps has taught you.

NC-I think it has. You're very conscious of the need to keep your audience and to make them really invest in the characters- and also to be desperate to find out what's happening next. I think that does help in terms of thinking about story structure and where you want the story to go, and giving the story movement.

KL- What do you think of the portrayal of Asian families in soaps?

NC- Soaps are continually re-using story lines:- with affairs and divorces, for example; and just because arranged marriages are culture-specific doesn't necessarily mean they've been done to death. Certainly when I've spoken to people about Asian stories as such, the arranged marriage issue is seen as being quite passée. I think the problem is that it hasn't been done properly. There are also new ways to tell those stories, as I hope "Mixed Blood" has proved. There's life in these issues as long as you find the story within.

....transcribed by permission (and very slightly edited); many thanks, Nazrin - ND.

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