The British Asian community’s incredible contribution to creative arts and culture industries were honoured on Friday, June 22, at the annual Eastern Eye Arts, Culture and Theatre Awards (ACTAs).
BBC broadcaster George Alagiah won the top award at the third edition of the glittering event that showcases the best of Asian talent and their achievements in the artistic fields, including film, TV, theatre, music and media.
Hosted by the Asian Media Group (AMG), publishers of Eastern Eye and Garavi Gujarat newsweekly, the ceremony was held at London’s glitzy May Fair Hotel.
Musicians Naughty Boy and Anoushka Shankar, actress Meera Syal, actor Sacha Dhawan, presenters Anita Rani and Dr Ranj Singh were among winners on the night.
Now in its third year, the ACTAs saw a total of 17 awards given away on the night, as the spotlight shone on top British Asian achievers in the creative arts.
Alagiah won the coveted top prize for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts. The Sri Lankan-origin broadcaster was recognised for his career spanning three decades, when he covered the apartheid in South Africa, the genocide in Rwanda and civil unrest in Afghanistan, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia.
Quoting the late Nelson Mandela, Alagiah said: “We must think with our brains, not our blood.”
In today’s world, parts of which are divided by ideology, the veteran broadcaster noted the Soutth African icon’s words could not be more relevant.
Actress and author Meera Syal won the Best Actress in Theatre award for her performance in Annie at the West End. She is familiar to millions for her work in the BBC hit comedy Goodness Gracious Me, the Kumar’s at Number 42 – which explored British Asian culture and was most recently seen on the BBC drama, Split.
Raj Ghatak scooped the prize for Best Actor in Theatre for playing the lead in the Kite Runner, based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini and adapted by Matthew Spangler.
Music producer Naughty Boy, who rose to fame with his debut album Hotel Cabana, scooped the People’s Choice Award, voted for by Eastern Eye readers. The musician has worked with an array of stars, including Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Beyoncé and most recently with US singer Joe Jonas.
The Editor’s Special Award was given to Anita Rani for presenting the BBC show My Family, Partition and Me: India 1947. It saw Rani visit her parents’ homeland in north India on the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India and Pakistan. Her moving and emotionally charged documentary saw Rani explore the human impact of Partition through the intimate stories of four British families, one of which was her own.
Sacha Dhawan won the Best Actor prize in the Film, TV and Drama category for his lead role in the BBC drama The Boy With the Topknot – a real-life story of a British Asian Sikh boy growing up in Wolverhampton with a father who suffered from mental health issues. The one-off drama was the highest-rated single drama of 2017 and was based on journalist Sathnam Sanghera’s novel of the same name.
Game of Thrones actress Indira Varma won the Best Actress prize for her role in the global hit.
There were prizes too for the Science Museum whose Illuminating India exhibition won it the Community Engagement Award. Among its final visitors in its extended season in April were India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prince Charles, during the former’s visit to London for the CHOGM summit.
Sitar player and accomplished Indian classical musician Anoushka Shankar won the music award for her score for Shiraz, a black and white silent film restored by the BFI to mark the 70th anniversary of Indian independence last year.
Waqas Khan, known for his pen and ink works on paper, was awarded the Eastern Eye Award for Arts for his exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery and Aakash Odedra walked away with the award for dance for #JeSuis, a company dance work on the migrant crisis.
The literature prize was given to author Vaseem Khan for his book The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star.
Political advisor turned stand up comedienne Ayesha Hazarika’s State of the Nation show had her winning the comedy award. The show, which debuted last year, provided an honest and humorous take on life behind the scenes at Westminster.
Hazarika also did a a sketch at Friday’s event, leaving the audience in stitches.
NHS clinician Dr Ranj Singh, the co-creator and host of the BAFTA award-winning CBeebies series Get Well Soon walked away with the award for the Best Presenter.
Asif Khan’s Combustion, a drama set in Bradford, and featuring the grooming of young girls and the rise of the far right, won the prize for the Best Production, and Pooja Ghai’s work in Lions and Tigers, a look at the lives of ordinary men and women struggling for freedom during the Indian independence movement, saw her being awarded the Best Director honour.
The Best Emerging Artist award was given to Reece Bahia for Thriller Live, a West End musical where he plays Michael Jackson. Bahia also performed She’s Outta My Life on the night and said the “intimate”gig was more nerve wracking than singing in front of a West End audience.
Eastern Eye columnist and chair of the ACTA judging panel, Amit Roy, said the awards were a way of “trying to dissolve cultural barriers” between Asians and white Britons.
“We are very lucky to live in such a lovely country which is so rich in the arts. That tells you something about its people,” Roy said.
Among other winners were –
Eastern Eye Award for Arts: Waqas Khan for his exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery
Eastern Eye Award for Dance: Aakash Odedra for #JeSuis
Eastern Eye Award for Literature: Vaseem Khan for The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star
Eastern Eye Award for Comedy: Ayesha Hazarika for the State of the Nation show
Eastern Eye Award for Best Presenter: Dr Ranj Singh for Get Well Soon and Get Well Soon Hospital
Eastern Eye Award for Best Production: Combustion by Asif Khan (AIK Productions in association with Tara Arts)
Eastern Eye Award for Best Director: Pooja Ghai for Lions and Tigers
Eastern Eye Emerging Artist Award: Reece Bahia for Thriller Live