Why Anjana Vasan is done people pleasing

May 30, 2024 5:00 pm

[Source: BBC]

The actress Anjana Vasan has a lot in common with her character Amina in We Are Lady Parts.

Both refuse to be people pleasers, both say no when necessary, and both have non negotiables.

Vasan, 37, told BBC News that just like Amina, she is in her “villain era” now.

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Her character is the unlikely lead guitarist of a female punk band and in the second season of Channel 4’s comedy written and created by Nida Manzoor we see her and her bandmates facing a set of new challenges.

“This season is all about girl power – we don’t have to always be apologetic and super polite, instead we can just be free to be who we want to,” Vasan explains.

She says the show was one of the best things she has worked on as the “sisterhood on the show is as strong in real life”.

“We all actually get on so well as friends and are desperate to hang out with each other so it’s great fun on set.”

Vasan’s co-star Juliette Motamed, who plays no nonsense drummer Ayesha says she “didn’t realise you weren’t actually meant to be friends with your cast”. “Lady Parts was my first bit of acting so in roles after that I thought it was normal to want to hang out with the rest of the cast. I quickly realised it wasn’t and now I’m even more grateful that we have this show.”

The Bafta nominated show follows five very different young Muslim women from London who are bought together due to their love of punk rock. For director and writer Nida Manzoor creating this show was “of the upmost importance”. “I made this show for my younger self,” she says, explaining that she, and the cast, never saw people like them in TV and film growing up. “The point of this ensemble show is to show that Muslim women are not a homogenous group, everyone is different and this show focuses on the nuances.”Manzoor and the cast said they all felt some pressure while making the show “as there are so few instances of Muslim women being represented in this way”.

The second season also features cameos from Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and comedian Meera Syal.

Faith Omole who plays band member Bisma told the BBC that the group dealt with the pressure by encouraging each other.

“It’s funny because we all actually give each other pep talks on set reminding each other that we’re in our villain era.”

“Society always talks about what women should be like, but this show is about how, who and what you are not what people expect of you,” Lucie Shorthouse, who plays the band’s manager on the show, adds.

Vasan has taken on a wide range of roles, from playing an assassin in Killing Eve, to a meek sales assistant in the Black Mirror episode, Demon 79.

The latter role secured her a Best Actress nomination at the Bafta TV awards earlier this month, although she lost out to Sarah Lancashire from Happy Valley.

But Demon 79 did pick up two awards earlier, at the Bafta Craft Awards, in the writer drama category and for photography and lighting fiction.

Speaking to BBC News before the TV awards, Vasan said she “already felt like we’d won” and praised her team, including Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, for what they had achieved.

Vasan, who grew up in Singapore, says her cultural influences came from a whole range of different places, from Monty Python to When Harry Met Sally.

“But definitely I think my first influences were always comedy, that’s what I was drawn to mostly.”

She also always loved theatre and film, although she admitted that growing up, she didn’t really see herself on the big screen. “I always saw it as something as quite far away and reserved for people with blue eyes and cheekbones, maybe subconsciously.”

Vasan has spoken in the past about representation in TV and film, and she said “there’s still so much more to do”.

“Every time we have this conversation, it feels like things are getting better, but that’s not to say the work has stopped. There’s more that always needs to be done.”

“We always when it comes round to awards seasons, people start asking these questions. And I think these questions need to be asked way before things like nominations happen. I think it’s actually about the work. If the work is there, if the opportunities are there, then everything else comes.”

Vasan moved to the UK in her early 20s, where she has forged a successful career.

In theatre, she won an Olivier award for her role as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire in 2023.

Earlier this year, she had a role on the big screen in the comedy film Wicked Little Letters.
It’s clear that she enjoys the range of roles.

“I think that’s probably intentional, to always try different things,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with playing feminine and dainty roles if they’re written very well. I think the first question is always if the writing is good, and if there’s more than one dimension to them.”

She added: “I’m probably not attracted to very obvious things, I like when characters have surprises within themselves.”
Season 2 of We Are Lady Parts is out on Channel 4 on May 30.