Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Meera Syal sees Bafta Fellowship as ‘extraordinary moment’ of change for TV

Meera Syal (Isabel Infantes/PA)
Meera Syal (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Meera Syal said she sees her Bafta Fellowship as a “really extraordinary moment” of change following the “invisibility” and “misunderstanding” she felt at the beginning of her career.

The comedian, actress, playwright and author – primarily known for comedy shows Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars At No 42, which saw British Asian actors in prominent roles – has been announced on Thursday as a recipient of the highest accolade the awards organisation can give.

Syal’s naming comes after comedian Sir Billy Connolly last year became a fellow and also follows figures such as actress Dame Joanna Lumley, journalist Jon Snow and presenter Sir Michael Palin, who also have made an “outstanding and exceptional contribution” to TV according to Bafta.

When asked by the PA news agency about the recognition, Syal said: “It’s a really extraordinary moment.

“I mean, of course, it’s utterly thrilling and utterly humbling because honestly, you beaver away for so long, not sure if people have noticed, or if you have changed anything.

“And more than anything, I think I wanted whatever I did over my career to change things because…the invisibility I felt, and that being misunderstood and stories being told about us that weren’t our stories.”

She added: “Of course, on a bigger level, you just hope that anybody that feels the industry is not for them.

“You know, they’re the wrong sex, the wrong race, the wrong class, the wrong gender, especially the wrong class nowadays, that they can look at somebody like me and go, it’s absolutely possible to make a difference.”

The 61-year-old, who grew up in the village of Essington, Staffordshire after her parents moved from India to the UK, said when she began in the industry being a “South Asian woman” that wanted to be “creative” was “really, really unusual”.

She also said that she was “extremely fortunate” as her parents had been “quite rebellious” by eloping to get married and they thought she was going to be okay while moving into acting as she never “bothered them for money”.

Syal added: “I was managing to just about scrape through, there was a period of about 18 months where I was homeless and living on people’s floors and I never told them, because I knew if I told him, it’s like, no, come home.”

The actress, who has written the screenplays Bhaji On The Beach and Anita And Me and was a scriptwriter for the Andrew Lloyd Webber-produced musical Bombay Dreams, played various characters in sketch comedy show Goodness Gracious Me.

Created by Sanjeev Bhaskar, Syall and Anil Gupta the series, which began on radio, offered a fresh perspective including reversal such as the ‘Going For An English’ sketch over its run on BBC Two from 1998 to 2001.

Syal also starred in The Kumars At No 42 – reportedly the late Queen’s favourite show – as her now-husband Bhaskar’s on-screen grandmother Ummi, which went on to win an International Emmy and a Peabody Award.

The actress has also had roles in Apple TV+’s anthology series Roar, which also starred Nicole Kidman, that saw her in an episode titled The Woman Who Returned Her Husband along with Mrs Sidhu Investigates that was on radio before being commissioned by Acorn TV.

She also said actresses are “redefining the ageing process” and said her agent used to tell clients that when they reached around the age of 50 it was “going to be very slow” and to wait for “mad granny parts” in their later years.

Syal added: “She said: ‘Just in the last 10 years, 15 years that has changed and  a lot of her older female clients and are now working in a way that just wouldn’t have happened then.”

The actress, who is also set to appear in season two of Amazon’s The Wheel of Time and has also been in the BBC’s Beautiful People and Doctor Who, hopes to help “all of those groups that are not usually represented on a stage” along with providing mentorship following her Bafta Fellowship.

Syal also joked that putting her award down during a commissioning meeting could also help her to get the stories she wants told as she needs to “have a bit more power”.

Jane Millichip, chief executive at Bafta, said Syal is an “exceptional storyteller with enormous range, which means she is loved by peers and the public as much as she is critically acclaimed”.

The 2023 Bafta Television Awards with P&O Cruises takes place at the Royal Festival Hall in London on May 14.