Nitin Ganatra (pictured with actress Alexandra Gilbreath) is currently starring in God’s Dice at the Soho Theatre (Photo credit: Helen Maybanks)
by LAUREN CODLING
FORMER EastEnders star Nitin Ganatra has hinted that he could make a return as his popular character Masood in the future, as his new play debuted in London last week.
Ganatra left the show in February after more than a decade playing Masood Ahmed in the long-running BBC series.
He first appeared as the much-loved character in 2007 with his family, which included Nadia Wadia as his fictional wife Zainab. Audiences were devastated when he announced his departure earlier this year. However, much to the delight of fans, it may not be the last time that they see Masood.
Admitting that he missed his fellow EastEnders co-stars, Ganatra revealed he had not ruled out returning to the popular soap in the future.
“Masood is a forever unexplored character – he still has a lot more to give,” the London-based star said. “It wasn’t hard saying goodbye to the show, because he is still alive, and he could always come back.”
Since his departure from the show, Ganatra has been busy. He has spent the summer working on roles in Midsomer Murders and Netflix’s The Worst Witch, both which are due to air next year.
Now, the Kenyan-born actor is gearing up to star in God’s Dice, the latest showing at London’s Soho Theatre.
Written by comedian David Baddiel, the plot centres on physics professor Henry Brook (played by Jonathan Creek star Alan Davies), whose world is turned upside down when a student appears to scientifically prove the existence of God.
Ganatra plays the role of Tim, Brook’s “chirpy sidekick”.
The actor believes that the play, which is Baddiel’s first, is sure to spark lengthy discussions among the audience.
“It will definitely open conversations,” Ganatra said. “There is a lot of science in it, but there is a lot of human relatability. We are looking at love, marriage, sex, religion and friendship and what it all means if you don’t believe in something. Watching how it has evolved in rehearsals, it is a very moving show.”
This is the second time that Ganatra has graced the stage in recent times. After taking a 16-year break from theatre, he returned last July in the Park Theatre’s black comedy End of the Pier. The critically acclaimed production saw Ganatra win an Eastern Eye Arts Culture & Theatre Awards (ACTA) for his performance.
The awards, which are designed to celebrate diversity in the arts, primarily recognise British Asian talent in the industry.
Ganatra said that although it was always wonderful to receive praise for a role, the award was particularly poignant for him as it came from the Asian community. As an Asian actor, he added, trying to survive in the white mainstream industry often got tiring. Expressing his irritation, Ganatra admitted it could be a frustrating process when Asian actors typically did not get leading roles in productions, unless it was an Asian project.
So, the recognition from initiatives such as the ACTAs was particularly special for the actor, he said.
“For the ACTAs to turn around and say, ‘we love you and we celebrate what you’ve done’, that means so much to me,” he revealed. “I was very touched by that. To be rewarded by your own community is very special.”
Ganatra’s career has spanned over more than two decades. He has had a series of roles in television and film, including a short cameo role in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2005.
However, it hasn’t always been easy for him, Ganatra explained. He had encountered a lack of diversity in the industry and admitted having experienced feelings of frustration when he saw ethnic actors being given secondary roles. He was keen to celebrate the actors who continue to work in the industry, despite the hardships they may have encountered.
“There is a certain generation of (British Asian) actors who have been doing it for over 25 years and we are still doing it. We haven’t walked away. We have all been through that thing when we’ve had to go into an audition and do the crap Indian accent,” Ganatra said. “The good thing that I celebrate is we haven’t given up.”
God’s Dice is at Soho Theatre in London until November 30