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Fictional Sikh-Briton MP Saves The Day In Futuristic TV Drama

JULIA RAESIDE

 

 

 

 



The rapid rise of the UK Independence Party (“UKIP”), a right-wing political party in the United Kingdom is a topic rife for discussion, but the danger of the party’s relative popularity is that it changes the discourse of the other parties, not that it might actually form a government.

Film-maker Chris Atkins, writer/director of the excellent ‘Starsuckers‘, fuses fairytale with real news footage in “Ukip: The First 100 Days” (Channel 4), which imagines a near future in which Prime Minister Nigel Farage gains a slender majority at the general election.

Atkins’ story is pegged on the fledgling career of the newly elected fictional MP for Romford, Deepa Kaur, played with impressive commitment by Priyanga Burford, who does her best to make Deepa a three-dimensional human, striving to do good as her party seeks to exploit those good intentions. It is a great performance – but the fictional Britain that votes for a Ukip government doesn’t convince nearly as much.

Deepa begins as an idealist who thinks her chosen party offers a better future.

“We are taking everyone to a better place,” she says in a bid to convince her doubting brother of her integrity. In a convenient bit of plotting, he loses his job at the local factory when the new government pulls Britain out of the European Union and practically leads a hashtag campaign to #savesabir, a young man injured in one of the government’s heavy-handed illegal immigrant raids.

Deepa is a Sikh, born in Britain, complete with stereotypically proud parents who show off her university certificates to anyone who’ll listen. She quickly becomes Ukip’s reassuringly “brown face” as she puts it, fronting a new immigration clamp-down. Smoking is back in pubs, Neil Hamilton is deputy PM, and funding is increased for border control task forces, with ex-squaddies raiding curry house kitchens looking for stowaways.

Meanwhile, the anti-Ukip factions mobilise and march on London, clashing with right-wing groups. The government papers over the cracks by announcing a new bank holiday and a revived Festival of Britain, but, as the country tips towards bedlam, the bunting droops and the scones start to look stale.

For a show about political maneuvering it’s not exactly ‘House of Cards’ or ‘The Thick of It,’ but ‘Ukip: The First 100 Days’ nevertheless tries to depict a Machiavellian spin doctor (played by Jamie Glassman) who literally lurks in the shadows as he grooms Deepa for political stardom.

Those used to more sophistication in their political satire (and it does attempt a satirical tone) might be disappointed by the rather binary nature of this tale. It just stops short of depicting a grinning Farage holding up the smoking doorknob of No 10, grinning apologetically among its ruins like a wretched Frank Spencer while chaos descends around him.

Atkins points out that Farage hasn’t thought things through and that his knee-jerk, fear-based policies will result in a climate of hate and economic chaos. It’s a good point, but not exactly an original one.

Deepa’s eventual redemption comes in the form of all-out rebellion: in the final scene she performs a u-turn, ruining her chances of promotion. While her political future was left unclear, she does earn a hug from her left-wing brother, telling us she is at least, morally speaking, a high achiever.

What could have been a nuanced look at a British political phenomenon, ends up not just pat, but feeling like a giant pat on the head. It won’t aid Ukip’s cause in the run up to the election, but it probably won’t make much of a dent in it either.


[Courtesy: The Guardian. Edited for sikhchic.com]
February 18, 2015
 

Conversation about this article

1: Mahtab Singh (London, United Kingdom), February 18, 2015, 6:26 AM.

The plot is not totally far-fetched. We've had a few high-profile politicians who've been gullible enough to be swayed by Ukip rhetoric and have, in real life, joined their ranks as token 'brown' faces. Thankfully, there've also been instances where some have fled in haste when confronted with reality. But, if I might add, what's most important about this TV production is that it acknowledges, albeit by implication, the huge involvement of Sikh-Britons in the nation's polity, and the impact they tend to have on things here. I hope this will inspire our Sikh youth to continue to forge ahead full-steam into mainstream politics.

2: Daljit Kaur (Guelph, Ontario, Canada), February 18, 2015, 6:36 AM.

I live in Guelph, a university town in Canada, not too far from Toronto. I grew up here and while reading this piece this morning, it suddenly reminded me of something from my high school days. I don't think too many people know that a play produced and performed here about a dozen years ago featured a fictional Prime Minister in a futuristic Canada, and identified as Prime Minister T. Sher Singh! The latter, who you know from these pages, was a well-known lawyer and media figure in Canada then. I trust the playwright had used his name because of the high reputation he had then, both as being interested in politics, but also in staying above the fray. I wish he's write about those experiences as well.

3: T. Sher Singh (Mount Forest, Ontario, Canada), February 18, 2015, 6:43 AM.

Good Lord! I have only a scant memory of it. Will have to rack my not-so-sharp brain about this ... Thanks for remembering.

4: Taran Singh (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), February 18, 2015, 1:41 PM.

Hope we can see it soon here in North America. I agree, it is about time there was more Sikh depiction in mainstream media.

5: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), February 18, 2015, 7:20 PM.

I don't approve of the use of the 'brown face' adjective. It's rather outdated, and in bad taste.

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