Explore the wonders of this unique fusion of cultures in this compelling season of programmes
Find The Big British Asian Summer on the BBC this August
British Asians are now the biggest minority population in Britain, at just over three million. To celebrate their influence on the ever-evolving British culture, this spectacular season explores their past, present and future across BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four and BBC Radio. From comedy to cuisine, history to horticulture – plus more Bollywood bangers than you can shake a sari at – it’s got it all.
And this bold season of programming doesn’t shy away from examining the frictions between non-white and white Britain either. Look out for Lost Boys? What’s Going Wrong For Asian Men, which explores British Asian notions of masculinity, as well as a special episode of the sensationally popular Gardeners’ World.
Find out more about what’s in store by reading our top picks below…
Tuesday 14 August, 9pm, BBC Two/HD (CH 102/162). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
In this extraordinary three-part series, Dr Yasmin Khan – an expert in Asian history from Oxford University – reveals the stories of migrants to Britain from the Indian subcontinent. Using the passenger lists of ships that arrived in Britain from 1878 to 1960, she reveals the secret histories of these individuals.
Coming this August, BBC Two/HD (CH 102/162). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
TV and radio personality Nikki Bedi interviews the renowned British Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed. They discuss his film career, including his roles in Four Lions, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The OA, The Night Of (for which he made history as the first South Asian actor and first Muslim actor to win an acting Emmy) and Girls, as well as his musical success with the hip hop group Swet Shop Boys. Ahmed also reflects on growing up as the son of immigrants from Pakistan in Wembley, a place he describes as a “cultural no man’s land”. The interview is followed by a screening of Mira Nair’s 2012 film The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which features his breakthrough international performance.
Monday 13 August, 9pm, BBC Two/HD (CH 102/162). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
Anita Rani – host of Countryfile – grew up in Bradford as an avid viewer of Bollywood cinema. Here, she takes a deep dive into the prolific Indian film industry, which produces three times as many films as Hollywood each year. From flamboyant dance sequences to high-octane action scenes, Rani gets exclusive access to the rapidly evolving business across two episodes.
Sunday 12 August, 10pm, BBC Two/HD (CH 102/162). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
This programme asks some big questions about the place of Asian men in British society. Presenter Mehreen Baig (above) explores the disparities between how well different communities fare in the UK, and why women from South Asian backgrounds are outperforming their male counterparts.
Wednesday 15 August, 8pm, BBC Two/HD (CH 102/162). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
Restaurateur Nisha Katona – founder of Mowgli Street Food – journeys from London to Manchester via the Midlands, unearthing the secrets behind delicious home-cooked curries along the way. She meets British Asian families from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and trys out recipes passed down through generations.
Tuesday 14 August, 8pm, BBC Two/HD (CH 102/162). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
Gregg Wallace is in for an absolute treat as he heads to a Nottinghamshire factory that produces 250,000 jars of curry sauce every day. He rolls up his sleeves, finds an unconventional use for a hosepipe and makes a 3,000kg batch of tikka masala – that’s enough curry to feed 25,000 people! Meanwhile, Cherry Healey travels to the chilli capital of India, Gunter, and historian Ruth Goodman traces the supposed invention of tikka masala to a Glaswegian restaurant in the 1970s.
Friday 17 August, 8pm, BBC Two/HD (CH 102/162). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
In this one-off Gardeners’ World special, the team pays homage to South Asian influences on British gardens. This includes Sezincote House – a 19th-century estate built in the Mogul style of Rajasthan. A visit to Blackburn reveals the allotmenteers growing Asian produce like mooli (a type of winter radish), amaranth (a summer weed) and snake gourds (similar to a summer squash).
Sunday 19 August, 10.30pm, BBC Four/HD (CH 107/163). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
After fleeing Idi Amin’s Uganda in 1972, the Thakrar family arrived in Britain. In this very special documentary film, members of the family, which now numbers 90 people across three generations, tell their story through the medium of song and dance. Yes, really. The Sound Of Music eat your heart out!
Thursday 16 August, 9pm, BBC Two/HD (CH 102/162). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
Fans of Long Lost Family will adore this programme. Across two episodes, four women adopted from the Indian subcontinent try to trace their biological mothers. All are searching for a lost part of their identity – but will they find what they’re looking for?
Sunday 12 August, 9pm, BBC Four/HD (CH 107/163). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
The last Maharaja of Punjab was taken from his mother’s arms and put into the care of an official of the British Empire, losing his Sikh religion and signing away his ancient kingdom. He grew up to be an incredibly wealthy English country gentleman and was godson to Queen Victoria, but came to deeply regret his abandoning of his heritage. This fascinating documentary retraces his history.
Friday 17 August, 10pm, BBC Two/HD (CH 102/162). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
Host of The Mash Report, Nish Kumar, comperes this hilarious two-part comedy show, which highlights fresh Asian comedic talent from the UK and beyond, with a line-up including Tez Ilyas, Emily Lloyd-Saini and Ahir Shah.
Coming this August, BBC Radio Three. Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
BBC Radio 3’s World Music programme presents a specially recorded session. BBC Asian Network’s Ashanti Omkar draws on her extensive knowledge of the Indian diaspora – having been born in Sri Lanka and raised in Denmark, West Africa and the UK – to curate a mixtape.
Channels, content and features available depend on your chosen package.
TV channels: Channel line-ups are subject to change and regional variations. TV packs currently exclude some teletext services.
HD: HD TV required to view HD channels. Number of inclusive HD channels depends on package.
Image credits: Bollywood: The World's Biggest Film Industry © Raw TV – Photographer: Sarah Muhsen
Lost Boys? What's Going Wrong For British Asian Men © Swan Films – Photographer: Toby Trackman
Searching for Mum © Raw TV – Photographer: William Lorimer