Interview: Nina Wadia - the Day It HIT Me I Was Famous; Comedy Star Nina Wadia First Realised She Was a Celebrity When a Woman Attacked Her in a Supermarket. by Ruki Sayid
Sayid, Ruki, The Mirror (London, England)
With the success of hit comedy Goodness Gracious Me, its four stars are treated like Asian royalty. They get mobbed in the street as if they were Bollywood heroes, fans call out their catchphrases and invite them in for tea. But not everyone sees the funny side.
Nina Wadia, one of the show's fab four, recalls how she was once attacked by an irate granny in the frozen food section of Somerfield. Offended by the antics of the show's Kapoors - an Asian family who try so hard to be oh-so English that they even pronounce their name "Cooper" - the woman came up to Nina and hit her.
"I couldn't believe it," says Nina, 31, talking exclusively to The Look. "I was shopping with my mum in Somerfield when this elderly Asian woman marched up and punched me hard on the arm.
"Then she said, 'So, you are that dirty girl from that disgraceful show. I've watched them all and they're all disgusting. How dare you wash our dirty linen in public. You should be ashamed of yourself'. She was dragged away by other shoppers and told not to watch it if she didn't like it."
The attacker was also outraged by the show's competitive mums who try and out-do each other with their sons' achievements. Their hilarious exchanges always end with the risque punchline, "But how big's his dhanda?"
"With some people the humour just goes over their heads. But, luckily, people like that are in the minority," says Nina with a chuckle. "Most of our audience love the material because they can relate to it and are proud of what we do. Thankfully, most of us can laugh at ourselves. I hope that woman hasn't watched the new series because she's bound to hate the Excess Baggage Family."
Although there are some Punjabis who feel betrayed by the sharp observations in the sketches, Goodness Gracious Me has struck a real chord with the ethnic community.
"Most people are genuinely nice and of the Asian population who watch GGM, 99 per cent love it," says Nina.
Like her co-stars Meera Syal, Kulvinder Ghir and Sanjeev Baskar, Nina is often approached by strangers wanting to chat. But when the adulation became too much to handle, she moved from Hounslow, West London out to Surrey.
It wasn't just the good-natured cries of "rasmalai" (an Asian sweet) or the catchphrase "kiss my chuddies" as she walked down the street, Nina found herself smothered by affection and attention the moment she stepped out of her front door.
"Indian fans are the funniest," says Nina, who also plays no-nonsense PA Maggie in the new sitcom Perfect World, which co-stars former Dennis Pennis comedian Paul Kaye.
"For a start, everyone is your auntie and they all want you to come to their house for tea. They call out, 'Hey bati, how are you? Come to tea, come to dinner, come and stay'.
They want to stop and chat, and it's very endearing but you just don't get anything done. In Hounslow it used to take me two hours just to go round one shop."
Born in Bombay, the youngest of three children, Nina was 11 when the family moved to Hong Kong. Her father Minoo was a purser with Air India for 25 years, then a restaurateur, and worked for the Indian High Commission in London before retiring a year ago. Sadly, her mum Homai died last January from renal failure.
The pain of her loss is still raw. "It was hard for us all when mum died," says Nina. "It made me realise what is important in life and what is not. She held us together. Indian mums are incredible, they do everything - hold down jobs, do the housework and look after the kids."
Homai, who underwent a kidney transplant ten years ago, spent a year in West London's Hammersmith Hospital. Nina would go to rehearsals and shows then spend several hours at her mum's bedside every night.
"It was hard work trying to be funny during the day when what was happening in real life was no laughing matter," she says. …