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Eastern-Enders
By Dal Chodha

It has been three months since the newest family was injected into BBC1’s EastEnders. Playing tough Asian businesswoman, Zainab Masood, Nina Wadia no doubt has what it takes to act the part, however on her shoulders she carries the morality of the modern day Indian community. Yes, we all like to complain when representation finally comes our way, however, surely we should now be at a point where an Asian character on television is not seen as a business entrepreneur or housewife? The middle of those two extremes also requires exploration.

Since the last Asian family, the plain-odd Ferreira’s, were axed two years ago, Wadia and newcomer Zahra Ahmadi, who plays her daughter, Shabnam, were the first Asians to be re-cast in the popular soap. The plot thickens with news that Actor, Nitin Ganatra, most recently seen in Channel 4’s ‘Meet the Magoons’, is set to join the cast as Mr Masood and along with him, Actor, Himesh Patel will join the cast playing Tamwar, Mr & Mrs Masood’s son.

The void left by Geeta and Sanjay, a duo who stained many of the Brindian generation’s memory as being two of the only Asian characters on television during the 1990’s, has been hard to fill. When they first joined the soap in 1993, their roles were firmly clichéd as Gita Kapoor, played by Shobu Kapoor, was a strong Asian woman who was seen as the brains behind the Kapoor's clothing business – a market stall, which Sanjay Kapoor, played by Deepak Verma worked on. It is possible that taking offence comes all to easily to our generation, as it is important to note that many of Albert Squares inhabitants seem to work on the market at some point or another.  It’s just that when the spotlight falls so tightly onto a primetime Asian character, it’s a shame that it seems to turn into an archetypical exposé.

Five years after the Kapoors left the Square in 1998, the Ferreira’s joined with much fanfare. Executive producer of the show Louise Berridge told the Daily Mail back in March 2003, "After a search which has taken more than two years, and in which we have met literally hundreds of people, we have finally found the perfect cast for our dynamic new family.” Sadly they refused to light up the screen – symbolising a small cross section of the Asian community who still live by archaic societal roles. Kareena Ferreira was a glorified housewife, taking the role of her absent mother, Adi Ferreira was a cabdriver as was his more intelligent older brother Ash and the youngest brother, Ronny was a DJ/MC.

Asif Malik played by Ashvin Luximon has also appeared in EastEnders although in a more supportive role. The scope for Asif to develop into anything near representational of the viewing audience wasn’t tapped into and currently actress Babita Pohoomull plays kooky beautician, Preeti Choraria, in again, a more supportive role.

As the male additions to the Masood family are set to move in, it will be interesting to see how the use of typecast job roles is translated into today’s EastEnders. We have a business woman and her attractive daughter fresh from university, working in her mum’s post office – this may be true of many high street post offices and shops around the UK, but surely we are a bit more exciting than that?

 
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