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Meera Syal

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Full Name  Feroza Syal
Name  Meera Syal
Years active  1983–present
Role  Comedian
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Born  27 June 1961 (age 54) (1961-06-27) Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England
Occupation  Actress, singer, writer, playwright, Comedian, producer, journalist, television presenter
Spouse  Sanjeev Bhaskar (m. 2005), Shekhar Bhatia (m. 1989–2002)
Books  Anita and Me, Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee
Children  Chameli Bhatia, Shaan Bhaskar
Parents  Surendra Syal, Surrinder Uppal
Movies and TV shows  Goodness Gracious Me, The Kumars at No 42, Anita and Me, Broadchurch, Desert Flower
Similar People  Sanjeev Bhaskar, Nina Wadia, Kulvinder Ghir, Gurinder Chadha, Don Black

Meera syal women of a certain age the act for change project

Meera Syal CBE (born Feroza Syal on 27 June 1961) is a British comedian, writer, playwright, singer, journalist, producer and actress. She rose to prominence as one of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me and became one of the UK's best-known Indian personalities portraying Sanjeev's grandmother, Ummi, in The Kumars at No. 42.


Meera Syal Broadchurch series 2 cast Meera Syal joins up

She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1997 New Year Honours and in 2003 was listed in The Observer as one of the fifty funniest acts in British comedy. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to drama and literature.

Meera syal s comedy night

Early life

Meera Syal Meera Syal Becomes a Patron of HOME in Manchester

Meera Syal's Punjab-born parents Surendra Syal (father) and Surrinder Uppal (mother) came to England from New Delhi. Her father was Khatri, and her mother was Jatt. She was born in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, and grew up in Essington, a mining village a few miles to the north. When she was young, the family moved to Bloxwich. This landscape – and the family's status as the only Asian family in a small Midlands mining village – was later to form the backdrop to her novel (later filmed) Anita and Me, which Syal described in a 2003 BBC interview as semi-autobiographical. She attended Queen Mary's High School in nearby Walsall and then studied English and Drama at Manchester University, graduating with a Double First.

Acting and writing career highlights

Meera Syal TV Production Should Meet Racial Quotas39Says Meera Syal

Syal wrote the screenplay for the 1993 film Bhaji on the Beach, directed by Gurinder Chadha, of Bend It Like Beckham fame. She was on the team who wrote and performed in the BBC comedy sketch show Goodness Gracious Me (1996–2001), originally on radio and then on television. She was a scriptwriter on A.R. Rahman and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams She played the grandmother Sushila in the International Emmy-award winning series The Kumars at No. 42, which ran for seven series.

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In October 2008 she starred in the BBC2 sitcom Beautiful People. This role, as Aunty Hayley, continued in 2009. Syal starred in the eleventh series of Holby City as consultant Tara Sodi. In 2009, she guest starred in Minder and starred in the film Mad, Sad & Bad. In 2010, she played Shirley Valentine in a one-woman show at the Menier Chocolate Factory, later transferring to Trafalgar Studios. In the same year she played Nasreen Chroudhry in two episodes of Doctor Who alongside Matt Smith.

Other notable appearances

Syal is an occasional singer, having achieved a number one record with Gareth Gates and her co-stars from The Kumars at No. 42 with Spirit in the Sky, the Comic Relief single. She earlier (1988) provided vocals for a bhangra version of "Then He Kissed Me" – composed by Biddu and with the Pakistani pop star Nazia Hassan – as part of the short-lived girl band Saffron. In June 2003 she appeared as a guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs programme with a selection of music by Nitin Sawhney, Madan Bala Sindhu, Joni Mitchell, Pizzicato Five, Sukhwinder Singh, Louis Armstrong and others. The luxury she chose to ease her life as a castaway was a piano.

Having studied English at university and penned two novels and a variety of scripts and screenplays, Syal was chosen as one of the guests on "The Cultural Exchange" slot of Front Row on 30 April 2013, when she nominated To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee as a piece of art work which she loved.

Awards and recognition

Syal won the National Student Drama Award for performing in One of Us which was written by Jacqueline Shapiro while at university. She won the Betty Trask Award for her first book Anita and Me and the Media Personality of the Year award at the Commission for Racial Equality's annual Race in the Media awards in 2000. She was given the Nazia Hassan Foundation award in 2003. She received from the Prince of Wales her CBE on the 6th of May 2015 at Buckingham palace. In 2011–12, Meera Syal was appointed visiting professor of contemporary theatre at St Catherine's College, Oxford. She has an honorary degree from SOAS, University of London and from University of Roehampton.

As a journalist, she writes occasionally for The Guardian.

Personal life

In 2004 she took part in one episode of the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are?, which investigated her family history, Syal discovered that both her grandfathers had campaigned against British rule and presence in India: one as a communist journalist, the other as a Punjab protestor who was imprisoned and tortured in the Golden Temple.

In January 2005, Syal married her frequent collaborator, Sanjeev Bhaskar, who plays her grandson in The Kumars at No. 42; the marriage ceremony took place in Lichfield, Staffordshire. Their son, named Shaan, was born at the Portland Hospital on 2 December 2005. Syal has a daughter, Chameli, from her previous marriage to journalist Shekhar Bhatia. Her brother is investigative journalist Rajeev Syal.

In February 2009, Syal was one of a number of British entertainers who signed an open letter printed in The Times protesting against the persecution of Baha'is in Iran.

In January 2011, Syal took part in the BBC Radio 4 programme My Teenage Diary, discussing growing up as the only British Asian girl in a small English town, feeling overweight and unattractive.


  • Bhaji on the Beach (1993)
  • Anita and Me (2002)
  • Bollywood Carmen Live (2013)
  • Stage

  • One of Us (1983)
  • The Oppressed Minorities Big Fun Show (1992)
  • Goodness Gracious Me (1999)
  • Bombay Dreams (2002)
  • Shirley Valentine (2010)
  • The Killing of Sister George (2011)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (2012) as Beatrice
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2014) as Zehrunisa
  • Radio

  • Goodness Gracious Me (1996–98)
  • Masala FM (1996)
  • Woman's Hour Drama: A Small Town Murder (2010)
  • Television

    what she played

  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (1985)
  • Tandoori Nights (1985)
  • The Real McCoy (1991)
  • My Sister Wife (1994)
  • Goodness Gracious Me (1998)
  • The Strangerers (2000)
  • Bad Girls (2004) Season 6 Episode 4
  • Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee (2005)
  • Jekyll (2007)
  • Horrible Histories (UK Children's TV series) (2010)
  • Uncle Santa (UK Little Crackers TV series) (2010)
  • Doctor Who 2 Episodes (2010)
  • The Jury (2011)
  • Hunted 2 Episodes (2012)
  • Broadchurch (2015)
  • The Brink (2015)
  • Novels

  • Anita and Me (1996)
  • Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee (1999), published in German under the title Sari, Jeans und Chilischoten in 2003
  • The House of Hidden Mothers (2015)
  • Selected filmography

  • The One of Us (1983)
  • Majdhar (1983)
  • The Diary of Adrian Mole (1985)
  • A Little Princess (1986)
  • Sunday East (1986–87)
  • Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987)
  • Serious Money (1987)
  • Peer Gynt (1990)
  • The Real McCoy (1991)
  • Gummed Labels (1992)
  • Taggart (1992)
  • The Oppressed Minorities Big Fun Show (1992)
  • Sean's Show (1993)
  • The Brain Drain (1993)
  • Absolutely Fabulous (1994)
  • New Best Friend (1994)
  • Flight (1995)
  • Degrees of Error (1995)
  • Band of Gold (1995)
  • It's Not Unusual (1995)
  • Drop The Dead Donkey (1996)
  • A Nice Arrangement (1996)
  • Beautiful Thing (1996)
  • Marsala FM (1996)
  • Crossing The Floor (1996)
  • Ruby (1997)
  • Sixth Happiness (1997)
  • The Book Quiz (1998)
  • No Crying He Makes (1998)
  • Keeping Mum (1998)
  • Legal Affairs (1998)
  • The World As We Know It (1999)
  • Late Lunch (1999)
  • Room 101 (1999)
  • Forgive and Forget (2000)
  • The Vagina Monologues (2001)
  • Double Income, No Kids Yet (2001)
  • Anita and Me (2002)
  • QI (2003)
  • Bad Girls (2004)
  • Bombay Dreams (2004)
  • Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee (2005)
  • Murder Investigation Team (2005)
  • The Amazing Mrs Pritchard (2006)
  • Who Do You Think You Are? (2006)
  • 8 Out of 10 Cats (2006)
  • Rafta Rafta (2006)
  • Jekyll (2007)
  • Kingdom (2007)
  • Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (2007)
  • The One Show (2008)
  • When Were We Funniest? (2008)
  • Beautiful People (2008–09)
  • Holby City (2009)
  • Desert Flower (2009)
  • Minder (2009)
  • Horrible Histories(2009)
  • Doctor Who: "The Hungry Earth" (2010) and "Cold Blood" (2010)
  • Tinga Tinga Tales (2010) Voiced of Owl
  • Absolutely Anything (2015)
  • Academic reception

    Her book Anita and Me has found its way onto school and university English syllabuses both in Britain and abroad. Scholarly literature on it includes:

  • Rocio G. Davis, "India in Britain: Myths of Childhood in Meera Syal's Anita and Me", in Fernando Galvan & Mercedes Bengoechea (ed.), On Writing (and) Race in Contemporary Britain, Universidad de Alcala 1999, 139–46.
  • Ana Maria Sanchez-Arce "Invisible Cities: Being and Creativity in Meera Syal’s Anita and Me and Ben Okri’s Astonishing the Gods", in Philip Laplace and Eric Tabuteau (eds), Cities on the Margin/ On the Margin of Cities: Representations of Urban Space in Contemporary British and Irish Fiction, Besancon: Presses Universitaires Franc-Comtoises, 2003: 113–30.
  • Graeme Dunphy, "Meena's Mockingbird: From Harper Lee to Meera Syal", in Neophilologus 88, 2004, 637–59.
  • References

    Meera Syal Wikipedia