Putting Sri Lanka on the map: Asian Provocateur

Romesh Ranganathan goes back to his Sri Lankan roots in Asian Provocateur (Photo credit: BBC)
Romesh Ranganathan goes back to his Sri Lankan roots in BBC Three documentary Asian Provocateur (Photo credit: BBC)

He’s the straight-faced comedian who has quickly amassed a large number of fans, becoming one of the most popular faces on TV and in the comedy circuit. For the last few weeks, Romesh Ranganathan has been entertaining us in his new BBC Three documentary Asian Provocateur, which has seen him exploring his Sri Lankan heritage and reconnecting with his familial roots.

Romesh has experienced a chicken being rubbed on his head, participated in Sri Lankan martial arts, had weight-loss medicine inserted through his rear-end and given a frankly phenomenal performance in a Sri Lankan MC battle. With his fresh gags and witty comments in stow, viewers have been following his quest to learn more about his ethnic background with the added help of mum Shanthi, who has masterfully planned activities for Romesh’s unconventional voyage of self-discovery.

As well as the show offering Romesh’s trademark sarcasm and angst, it has also alerted audiences to problems that children with immigrant parent’s face when growing up in modern Britain. “I know absolutely nothing about the culture of where my family are from. I know more about Horsham. That’s sad isn’t it?”, says Romesh in the opening episode. The series is not only hilarious and often bonkers, it also manages to explore Romesh’s disconnect from a family and heritage left waiting on the sidelines – but without this becoming the focus of the show. It is also fittingly representative of the way in which second-generation children of immigrant parents can become confused and conflicted when negotiating their identity and juggling two cultures.

Tuk tuks and displays of dramatic black magic aside, the show has given positive exposure to Sri Lanka and its wonderous ways, while expressing how definitions of ‘British-Asian’ can be problematic for those who are very loosely tied to their Asian roots. Far from being an Eat, Pray, Love-style figure, Romesh is interesting since he represents a British-Asian figure who is very simply unsure about his cultural background and how to approach it, which makes the series all the more funnier. Having successfully soared as an ethnic minority figure in the heavily underrepresented Arts sector in Britain, Asian Provocateur shows that issues of ethnicity and identity are still commercially valuable, and definitely worth making a 6-part series about.

Watch the first 4 episodes of Asian Provocateur here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06fq3x4

Romesh goes fishing, Sri Lankan style. (Photo credit: Radio Times)
Romesh goes fishing, Sri Lankan style. (Photo credit: Radio Times)

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