Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti: 'A warm, sensitive writer who did not set out to offend'

When asked about writing Asian storylines in television soap operas, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti was clear that anything was possible, if handled with tact.

When asked about writing Asian storylines in television soap operas, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti was clear that anything was possible, if handled with tact.

"I believe if your heart is in the right place, if you ask the right questions, if you make the right choices, anybody can write about anything," she was quoted as saying in an interview last year. "It is just about doing it with sensitivity and care and passion."

It is not a view shared by all members of the Sikh community from which Ms Bhatti hails. Yet those who know her and have worked with her say that she would never have set out to offend. "She's a splendid human being," Braham Murray, the artistic director of the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, said. "It wouldn't have occurred to her that the play would cause such controversy."

Described by Mr Murray as "extremely attractive and highly intelligent," Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti was born in Watford but now lives in London with her partner, Michael Buffong, an actor turned director.

She studied modern languages at Bristol University, after which she worked as a journalist, refuge worker and actress. But in recent years she has concentrated on writing. She first won attention through a drama writers' course run by the old Carlton television company when it was preparing to make its new version of the soap, Crossroads.

She had already started work on her first play, Behsharam (Shameless) with a writer's attachment scheme at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1998, but was forced to put it on the back burner while she immersed herself in creating the characters for the resurrected soap.

But while the soap was ultimately doomed, Behsharam received some positive reviews when it was eventually premiered at the Soho Theatre in London before transferring to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 2001.

A drama packed with family feuds, prostitution, racial tensions and drug abuse, the critics disliked its soap-like tendencies but applauded the spark of talent they identified within. Michael Billington, writing in The Guardian, said it showed "definite flickers of promise" though he lamented the precedence of situations over ideas. Nicholas de Jongh, of the London Evening Standard, said it "might pass muster as an elaborate trial-run for a Channel 4 soap opera about a working-class Asian family in England."

She persevered with her writing, producing scripts for EastEnders and dozens of episodes of the BBC World Service soap, Westway, and a few plays. She has just written The Cleaner, an hour-long film for BBC1, and her first feature film, Pound Shop Boys, co-commissioned by the Film Council.

Behzti (Dishonour) was her second work for Birmingham and, like its predecessor, has been published by Oberon Books.

The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester is one of several organisations keen to work with her and Murray, the artistic director, had commissioned a piece which she was expecting to start work on once Behzti was running.

"She has enormous warmth and compassion and understanding and she's very funny.

"What is interesting from any playwright from a closed society that we don't know is how she depicts that society with a richness and humanity and makes the connections between that society and our society. She's certainly one of the best young writers I've read."

Murray said he hoped the cancellation would not deter her as a writer. "I'm frightened if this in any sense stunts her development," he said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before