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Old 18th May 2005, 14:57   #1
Lucoid
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Default Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee

In this fabulous adaptation of her novel of the same name, Meera Syal tells the three interlinking stories of best friends Sunita, Chila and Tania at a patricularly explosive time of all their lives.

Told in three parts narrated by each of the women in turn, just like the book, it gets to the heart of each woman's concerns about her position in life and the state of her friends' lives and relationships. Last week self-absorbed, selfish Tania, who had believed she'd escaped the claustrophobic Asian community she grew up in, returned to its bosom to make a film about modern Asian relationships in Britain, and managed to upset her friends in the process by showing Chila as a simple housewife and ageing new bride finally marrying her Prince Charming and revealing how Sunita (played by Syal) had hidden the abortion she'd had at university from her husband, then finished the show by snogging Chila's Prince Charming, watched separately by poor Chila (who, by the way, has the most fantastic, face-splitting smile!) and angry Sunita.

Needless to say, sparks flew in last night's episode (this time told from Sunita's viewpoint) as it all came out in the open and Chila revealed her pregnancy to her cheating hubby and carried on acting the calm goddess of the home, while Sunita toyed with cheating on her husband (played by Syal's real-life husband Sanjeev Bhaskar) with a young doctor, got a haircut and left her job, and Tania carried on shagging Chila's bloke.

Of course, there's loads more to it than I've managed to dredge up, and I'm very much looking forward to the final episode next week, told from Chila's perspective. I've found it much more enjoyable than Syal's film adaptation of her earlier novel, Anita and Me, though I actually preferred that book over this one. Still, as a TV drama, Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee is a perfect mixture of tension, heartbreak, humour and, well, drama, and I very much hope the Beeb put it out on DVD in time for me to put it at the top of my Christmas present list later this year.

Read more here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/hahaheehee/
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Old 18th May 2005, 15:36   #2
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It's so nice to read a positive review of this - it seems to have been bashed somewhat on the Beeb messageboards.

I've loved it so far - yesterday's episode made me laugh out loud, as well as welling up at the end. And all the main roles seem to be great performances - Sanjeev Bhaskar's turn as the now embittered hubby has been a particular revelation. And Ayesha Dharker as Chila is adorable - I even loved her answering machine message 'Hello, I'm not here - 'cause this is a message, innit?' (For those that didn't hear it and are wondering what I'm on about, it was very cute.) In fact, all three women are completely gorgeous in very different ways.

It's so aptly named: one of its great strengths, for me, is how it exposes the raw spots of relationships. I'm struggling to remember the exact quote - there's one point where Sunita, fuelled by wine and female company, claims to have identified 'the man-smell that inhabits every room you occupy - kebabs, armpits and utter disappointment.' The painful moments really make you wince, but also elicit sympathy.

I haven't read either of Syal's books, so I can't really comment on the translation from page to screen - but I know this is mustn't-miss TV.
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Old 19th May 2005, 14:52   #3
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Quote:
it exposes the raw spots of relationships
Precisely! Well put Ono.

Quote:
Sunita, fuelled by wine and female company, claims to have identified 'the man-smell that inhabits every room you occupy - kebabs, armpits and utter disappointment.'
That made me laugh out loud! Lucky the beloved was in the bath or he may have started to worry.

I feel very silly for not thinking to stock up on the video tapes and record this series for future viewing.
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Old 19th May 2005, 14:54   #4
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Quote:
it seems to have been bashed somewhat on the Beeb messageboards
What is it that people are criticising?
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Old 19th May 2005, 15:21   #5
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People seem to be complaining that it portrays stereotypes, that it's saying that Asian men always 'play around' with western women but marry subservient Asian women, or that successful Asian women really want an Asian husband....

To me that seems to smack of wanting to pick fault with it - I've just seen it as a story of three strong female characters, each trying to make the best, in their own individual ways, of the imperfect hand that life has dealt them.

It seems so bound up in the specifics of the characters, who I think have had their complexities wonderfully drawn in just two relatively short episodes, that I don't see how it can be accused of stereotyping.
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Old 20th May 2005, 14:05   #6
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I agree with you. After all, this is just one person's representation of three fictional women (though no doubt drawn from her knowledge of similar real-life characters), and surely can't be seen as a definitive portrayal of a whole community.
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Old 20th May 2005, 15:39   #7
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You're right about this series getting a bit of a pasting from some critics. I'm afraid A A Gill, who is always a delight to read even when the man's talking complete bollocks, had this to say about it in The Sunday Times Culture supplement this week:

Quote:
Marriages have gone beyond being a cliché to become a TV Tourette’s for Asian viewers. Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee (Tuesday, BBC1) is an adaptation of Meera Syal’s book, starring Syal, and it starts off with a funeral. No, I’m only joking: it was a wedding. And instantly, I resented it. It continued to be the straightforward story of best friends and their marriages. This is overfamiliar women’s television territory, and making this one Anglo-Asian didn’t improve it much.

The initial production problem that was never resolved was: is this a drama about three women, based on the small Hindu Indian immigrant community; or is it a programme about an ethnic community, based on the lives of three women? That’s not just semantics. It makes a big difference to the emphasis. It kept getting bogged down in worthy explanations and explorations of what it means to be a modern Indian woman in England. This is not how friends talk to each other. Actually, the women’s roles were pretty stereotypical and derivative. They were put in some terribly old, tired setups. The friends were sympathetic without being particularly believable. One was supposed to be a TV producer, and her boss was Jimmy Mulville — the actual boss of Hat Trick, which really did produce this series. So there you are: nature following art. Or just creativity disappearing up its own in-joke? It was ironic that Hat Trick, maker of so many great comedies, should have made Life Isn’t, because what it seemed to be straining to be was funny. Most scenes had a comic potential that was stifled by the homespun, worthy nature of the performances. That and the fact that the men’s parts were desperately underwritten. But my mum says the book was really good.
I haven't seen any of the programmes so far, not through choice, just preoccupied with other doings, so can't comment. But given the relatively mild nature of Mr Gill's gripes, I assume it was probably very good!
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Old 24th May 2005, 14:19   #8
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I see what you mean about Gill being good to read, and I can also see where he's coming from (which always annoys me intensely when I enjoy something so much I don't want it to be criticised!).
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Old 25th May 2005, 14:51   #9
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Watching the final part last night I couldn't help but be a little disappointed. It seemed to have lost its way and some of its sparkle - it felt a bit flat, I guess. However, the loose ends were all neatly tied and it had a satisfactory conclusion, a kind of walking-into-the-sunset ending, and it still had enough of a hold for me to shed a couple of tears for Tania's dad. Enjoyable enough but not as much as the first two parts.
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