Writer, actor, producer and founder of Bhuchar Boulevard - Sudha Bhuchar’s career spans 40 years. Now, she graces Edinburgh Fringe with Evening Conversations, a meditation on her life as a middle-aged, middle-class, multicultural mother of dual-heritage (Indian/Pakistani), fiercely British sons. At its heart is a collage of entertaining and revelatory conversations between Sudha and her boys, giving an insight into her upbringing, which spans 3 continents, and how this has shaped her. We recently caught up with Sudha to learn how she forges her way in an industry starved of South Asian representation, what has inspired her along the way, and (very importantly) her Dishoom recommendations.
Sudha fell into the world of theatre completely by accident. As a young woman - recently arrived in the UK from Tanzania - she was introduced to a community theatre group, Tara Arts, at a Diwali function in London. The arts collective was founded by Jatinder Verma and his contemporaries in 1976 in response to the racist murder of Gurdip Singh Chaggar, a teenager in Southall. Intrigued by their edgy sketches that challenged what it meant to be young, British and Asian, Sudha, with her sister Suman, frequented their evening meet-ups until one day being asked to step in last-minute for an actor who never showed. Following her unintentional debut as a police woman, she caught the bug and ended up abandoning her plans to study Mathematics at Imperial College London. Pursuing a degree in Maths/Sociology at Roehampton Institute instead, Sudha immersed herself in Tara and the city’s performing arts scene.
In 1989, Sudha co-founded Tamasha Theatre Company, with Kristine Landon- Smith, where she remained co Artistic Director for 26 years. Their legacy is still a renowned powerhouse for new writing, talent development and digital innovation, specialising in stories that celebrate shared histories and cultures. These are themes she seeks out in her own projects and acting jobs which include Mogul Mowgli, Mary Poppins and the Oscar-winning short film, The Long Goodbye. She mentions her co-star Riz Ahmed has become a close supporter of her work - he describes Evening Conversations as “full of truth and beauty - really brave”.
Her views on South Asian representation on-screen resonate with the feelings of many industry peers, who feel progress is reversing. She jokes that “people see brown people in Bridgerton and think ‘Great! We’re doing diversity now!” but follows up that “in reality, serious structural change is still needed”. Sudha and her industry peers - who shared the “deeply formative experience of growing up as British Asian” have become inadvertent pioneers for change in the process of their work, and it’s shows like Evening Conversations that serve to further their cause.
“South Asians are the least represented on screen. Of course, things change. But you never get name checked for the work you’ve done, and the work you’re still doing. I’ve had to forge my own path. It was a privilege to form Tamasha and it’s changed a lot of lives. We’ve been able to commission and do work that others wouldn’t, and some of these artists have gone on to be Hollywood stars. I feel proud of that, despite us having to take the scenic route.”
If you didn’t catch her show, Evening Conversations, during Edinburgh Fringe, you can download and listen to it here.
Sudha’s go-to Dishoom order:
The sun is momentarily out again. Calendars are fast filling up. There’s many a thing to do and many a friend to meet. And if we may kindly add to the excitement and the plan-making, here’s our list of what we’re looking forward to in September.
Each year as August dawns, the streets and rooms and corners of Edinburgh fill with music, art, laughter and song. Wander into grand halls and pokey pubs, as the morning sun rises or in the dark of night, to see creations of every kind as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In honour of this wonderful celebration of the performing arts (and as a little treat), here’s a special edition Dishoom Loves, covering all the acts we’ve circled on our festival programme.
For anyone looking to learn or read more on Partition, this page holds a series of resources, for all ages, created by people knowledgeable and knowing about such matters. It is by no means definitive – we have simply found them to be useful, inspiring and accessible.
Welcome to a brand new month of Dishoom Loves. For those who often receive our emails, and for those who follow us on Instagram, you’ll know that we worked together with the ever-so-talented artist Manjit Thapp. Peruse our first-ever collection of limited-edition T-shirts (they’re available to buy now!) So this month, we thought it would be wonderful to hear about all the things Manjit Loves. Have a little read.