By: Pramod Thomas
ACCLAIMED musician Nitin Sawhney won the top award at Eastern Eye’s annual Arts, Culture and Theatre Awards (ACTAs), which recognise the achievements of Britain’s south Asian community in the arts, creative and media industries.
Sawhney, whose latest album, Immigrants, examines the complexities of identities in modern Britain, was presented The Eastern Eye Outstanding Contribution to Creative Industry Award.
He said, “My last album was called immigrants for good reason. We live in a country, which is guilty of endemic racism, you may not admit that all the time. But that’s everywhere; we’ve all grown up with it. And it exists out there.
“The constant challenge is to make music that is relevant, and that speaks from the heart and is true, and goes with what you believe. And you never let yourself down or what you what you create.”
Launched in 2016 by Eastern Eye’s publisher, the Asian Media Group, the ACTAs celebrate the diverse artistic talent among Britain’s south Asians communities.
Prominent figures from the film, music, theatre and the entertainment industry attended the sixth edition of the event, at the May Fair hotel in central London last Friday (3).
India’s deputy High Commissioner Sujit Ghosh paid tribute to the artistic community and their efforts in uniting different cultures and countries.
MPs, peers, arts organisations and business leaders were among those who attended the celebration, which was originally due to be held in September 2022, but was postponed following the deaths of the Queen and also AMG co-founder Parvatiben Solanki, both of whom passed on September 8.
Actress Anjana Vasan, artist Chila Burman, director Indhu Rubasingham and author-columnist Sathnam Sanghera were among other winners on the night, when a total of 18 awards were presented.
Eastern Eye’s editor at large, Amit Roy, called for British Asians to become decision makers.
Addressing the 250-strong gathering, he said, “ACTA was set up partly because we felt that British Asian artists were not getting the recognition they deserved.
“We know there has been progress. But perhaps we need to go a little beyond British Asian artists waiting to be given commissions by other people. Maybe the time has time for British Asians to move into commissioning roles themselves.”
From arts to music and books to theatre, the ACTAs recognise talent across a variety of fields and Friday’s awards followed previous virtual celebrations due to the pandemic.
Chila Kumari Burman won the Eastern Eye Award for Arts for her installation, ‘Do you see words in rainbows’ featuring neon and rainbow colours and Indian motifs in London’s Covent Garden.
Urja Desai Thakore won the Eastern Eye Award for Dance for her work, Kattam, Katti, which drew from Gujarat’s annual Uttarayan kite-flying festival and sought to highlight inequalities in life.
Last year marked 50 years of the arrival of Asians forced to flee from Uganda and the authors of two books whose theme featured this won The Eastern Eye Award for Fiction.
Hafsa Zayyan, the author of We are all Birds of Uganda, and Neema Shah, who wrote Kololo Hill, were jointly awarded the prize.
Sanghera, who writes for The Times, won the Eastern Eye Award for Non-Fiction for his book, Empireland: How Imperialism has shaped modern Britain. It examines British thought and ideas conceived during the Empire and how those shaped modern Britain.
One of the pioneers of Asian photography, the late Maganbhai ‘Masterji’ Patel, of Coventry, was honoured, posthumously, with the Eastern Eye Award for Photography. Judges paid tribute to Masterji’s visual archive that encapsulate the stories of successive generations of British south Asians.
LBC presenter Sangita Myska, the first Asian woman to have her own show on the radio station, which draws three million listeners and viewers, won the Eastern Eye Award for Best Presenter.
West End production Life of Pi, which enthralled audiences with its puppetry, won the Eastern Eye Award for Best Production. Its lead performer, Hiren Abeysekera, won the Eastern Eye Award for Theatre, Best Actor.
Produced by Simon Friend Entertainment, the Yann Martel’s Booker Prize winning novel about an Indian boy, Pi Patel (played by Abeysekera), and Richard Parker, a talking circus tiger, was adapted for the stage by writer Lolita Chakrabarti and is now set to be staged in the US.
Rubasingham was named the Best Director for The Father and the Assassin at the National Theatre, while Ayesha Dharker won the gong for Best Actress (Theatre) for her role in the same play. It is a fictional dramatisation of Mahatma Gandhi and his Nathuram Godse, who shot him dead.
In the Film, TV & Drama category, Sagar Radia won the Best Actor award for his role in BBC drama Industry and ITV’s The Good Karma Hospital.
Anjana Vasan was recognised for her roles in BBC series Killing Eve and Channel 4’s We are Lady Parts with the best actress award in the Film, TV and Drama category.
A children’s play, Jabala and the Jinn, won Asif Khan the Eastern Eye Award for Best Scriptwriter award.
Actor Rish Shah who plays Kamran in the new Ms Marvel series – which premiered in June last year – was named The Eastern Eye’s Emerging Artist.
In a video message, he said, “I’m really proud to be part of this community that’s fighting for better representation. I hope to continue to work that makes us proud as a community.”
For its work on exploring historical links of colonialism and the slave trade, the National Trust won the Eastern Eye Community Engagement Award.
Judges praised the trust’s 115-page report, “Addressing our histories of colonialism and historic slavery”, which revealed that 93 out of its 500 historic properties were built either with colonial loot or the proceeds of the slave trade. Despite extreme pressure, The National Trust did not shy away from telling the truth, the judges said.
The Eastern Eye Award for Music award went to singer-songwriter and composer Swati Natekar who has worked with Sawhney, Niraj Chag and Jakatta American Dream as well as Zakir Hussain, Talvin Singh, Sonu Nigam and Muzaffar Ali.
This year’s Eastern Eye Editor’s Special Award was presented to The British Film Institute for its Satyajit Ray Season, curated by Sangeeta Datta and which saw the screening of 37 films including Ray’s famed ‘Pather Panchali’ trilogy.
The event was compered by BBC presenter Nihal Arthanayake.