Award winning comedian Romesh Ranganathan is sent to Sri Lanka by his mother to get back in touch with his family history and heritage and the result, BBC 3’s Asian Provocateur, is a fantastic TV series that documents the travels of Romesh as a self-proclaimed ‘coconut’, (a Sri Lankan completely assimilated the English culture and completely removed and alienated from his own,) travelling across Sri Lanka.
The comedian describes himself as ‘a lazy, horrible, home-comforts-wanting pig,’ and his discomfort in the face of many deep seated Sri Lankan customs is palpable. Some of the experiences along this journey clearly take Romesh to the edge and it’s when he’s thrown out of his comfort zone that the show really shines. He effectively admits to being a ‘spoilt Brit’ in the face of increasingly taxing cultural challenges intended to assimilate him to Sri Lankan customs and some of the tricky situations he ends up in evoke side-splitting reactions. His initial arrival in Sri Lanka for existence leaves him with a driver who speaks next to no English and spends hours running errands before even considering taking him to his destination.
The programme is an unusual departure from Ranganathan’s usual repertoire of stand-up and panel shows and further reinforces the pampered-Londoner character he’s created through his comedy. This programme enshrines that character in genuine experience though, making it more than a stand-up persona and adding more to his comedy locker.
The current series of Asian Provocateur airs on Wednesdays at 10.30pm and is well worth a watch. It has belly laughs, shock value and heart-warming moments of cultural discovery. Romesh is far from the new Michael Palin, but seeing Sri Lanka through his eyes is, in places, a genuinely mind broadening experience.
By George Storr