So today, we finally filmed the promo for the documentary about my trip back to India - provisionally titled One Body, Two Cultures. The aim of the promo was to convince the BBC to commission the documentary in full. We had a meeting with the commissioner the other week and she loved the idea. The promo was funded by the Beeb, so that they could see if I could actually carry a programme with my presenting skills and for me to present a teaser for the full programme. The first thing was to try and condense the story down into one or two lines and present it - this really helped me get to the heart of what I'm doing. Then it was thinking about what a 4 minute teaser needs - it needs to ensure I come across well; it needs to have variety and be interesting; and it needs to make the viewer want to see the full programme.
The summary is this: I'm mixed-race, but had a very white English upbringing, without much influence from my Indian heritage; when my father passed away it set me on the path to finding out more about my heritage. Now I'm trying to understand what my heritage means to me by going on a journey I'd planned with my father. We filmed in Windsor, with me doing Pieces To Camera about my upbringing and why I need to do this journey. We did an interview with my mum to talk about what my dad was like and how it was for her, marrying an Indian. We talked to my sister-in-law about what life is like as a British Indian, and how what Indian values really mean. And we spoke to a lady at Southall Temple to find out about the ritual I am to perform in India.
Russ and Lisa, from Big Earth, were fantastic in organising everything and asking me the right questions to bring out the subject matter - piecing the story together and allowing me to relax. Ben was a brilliant cameraman, who got all the necessary footage and ensured the shoot looked good and flowed well. Leaving me to explore the subject and gob off - which I'm fairly good at!
I really enjoyed the day, which was a miniature version of the trip itself. I learned a lot , which I didn't really expect - particularly in talking to my mum and sister-in-law. I'm really considering what my Indian heritage means to me from all sorts of angles - family values, life values, marriage, rituals - and its making me re-evaluate things. Which is, I suppose, exactly what I set out to do. I'm feeling a genuine conflict between what are sometimes opposing values, and I feel, more than ever, that I need to set out on this journey as soon as possible to resolve that turmoil.
The ritual itself means a lot more to me now. Initially it was the catalyst to set me out on this journey, but now it means so much more: I understand what it means to my father metaphysically and spiritually; and it has taken on a gravitas that it didn't before. And that has opened up new conflicts for me. Apparently I should have done it within 15 months and that there are rules about carrying the ashes and so on. These are very traditionally Indian rules and I'm reflecting on them. Yes, my dad was Hindu - but not a strict one, as he never lived by the rules. And I'm only half Indian myself. So, I feel happy in doing this ritual now, in my own way. I'm going to follow the intentions and guidelines of the Hindu tradition, but do it in a way that feels natural to me.
The teaser will take 2-3 weeks to edit, and I'll post it up when it'd done, so you can see what we got up to and how it all looks. Then it will go to the BBC who will decide if they'll commission it. That will take another couple of weeks, so I won't know for 6 weeks at least if its going to go ahead or not. The time it takes is hugely frustrating as I'm anxious to get on with it, but there's not much I can do about that. In the meantime, I have to make the most of my time researching what we want to do, put together the full presentation for the BBC and keep myself busy.
It's been a long road to get here, but things are finally coming together. I'm extremely positive about this, as the BBC's early interest is a good sign they are looking to commission it. There's not much more I can do, now, except wait for the decision. And keep fingers, toes and shoelaces tightly crossed!