8 Aug 2018

Navin Chowdhry, Next of Kin & extremism

From Nine To Noon, 10:08 am on 8 August 2018

A new thriller, Next of Kin, which debuts in New Zealand on Monday centres on a British Pakistani family in London whose world is shattered by a brutal act of terrorism.   

Navin Chowdhry stars in the programme about a Muslim family with roots in Pakistan and London.

Navin Chowdhry as Dr Kareen Shirani

Navin Chowdhry as Dr Kareen Shirani Photo: MAMMOTH SCREEN FOR ITV

Chowdhry, who's appeared in a host of TV shows including Our Girl and Doctor Foster, as well as Star Wars:The Last Jedi, plays Kareem the brother of lead character Mona played by Archie Panjabi.

He says the programme, which has been a hit in the UK, does something that is uncommon on television.

“It’s a very rare thing to have a drama where the lead protagonists are an Asian family.”

And particularly one that addresses terrorism, he says.

“What we present in this show is you have a family, a Muslim family who are absolutely horrified, just as horrified as any other culture in the world. That is something we lose sight of, something that is not reported on, certainly something that is not shown in British drama.”

Chowdhry is a second-generation British Indian whose family came to England in the 1960s.

“One of the things I experienced growing up was how beautifully tolerant and accepting many parts of the Western world were and still are.”

But there were darker undercurrents too, he says.

“The '70s and '80s in England, in particular, it was the decade of the skinhead - of the National Front and right wing movements - so there were times when it was very hostile.”   

He has encountered professional racism too, he says.

“I know for a fact there are a lot of projects where you can’t get in the room because of the colour of your skin, in any other profession that is illegal.”

Making film and TV is storytelling, and storytelling should be colourless, Chowdhry says.

“Isn’t it a shame that a quota system is required [in the US] to make producers and executives and commissioners bring in people of different colours for roles they would not be considered for previously?”

The first episode of Next of Kin will air in New Zealand on UKTV on Monday 13th August.