Playwright Tanika Gupta doesn’t want to be defined by her British Bengali background, nor be restricted by issues of ethnicity. But her new work for radio falls disappointingly flat, neither taking the chance to expand beyond its British Asian setting, nor picking up and running with the Asian themes she chucks into the mix and then drops.
The story is that of a 51-year-old Asian woman, Bindi, who launches a beauty business on the proceeds of a redundancy pay-off. Business start-ups by women are increasing but this is no professional primer. Bindi’s response to a grilling by a bank employee about her lack of a business plan is to massage his neck. In the role, Meera Syal is likeable as Bindi, but forced by the script into a faux-sitcom attitude at such points, ramping up her Indian accent, adding a comical edge, as if this somehow erases the need for professional credentials.
Bindi’s daughter Anu (Krupa Pattani) is a well-drawn character, a young woman of great intelligence, little self-confidence and few prospects in the jobs market. Bindi cruelly gibes at Anu’s facial hair and the subject of Asian hirsutism is alluded to, but the issues raised not explored, likewise the subject of women who lighten their skin.
Gupta’s series is well-structured to the 15-minute drama series slot, each episode rising to an entertaining crescendo, but frustratingly fails to scratch the glossy surface. The ludicrous finale, in which Bindi sells the far from beautiful company, will have business women crying into their spreadsheets.