Meera Syal CBE will be presented with a BAFTA Fellowship at the forthcoming BAFTA Television Awards with P&O Cruises. It is the highest accolade bestowed by BAFTA upon an individual in recognition of an outstanding and exceptional contribution to film, games or television. Meera Syal CBE is an award-winning and nationally beloved actor, screenwriter and novelist.
She has brought her distinctive voice to the UK’s creative arts across multiple artistic genres over four decades, with over 140 credits and counting. Perhaps best known for the two iconic comedy series Goodness Gracious Me (1998-2001) and The Kumars at No. 42 (2001-6) Syal’s cross-cultural stories and performances regularly unite the nation through humor and have played an instrumental force in showcasing the positive representation of British-Asian stories and talent on screen.
Alongside her MBE and CBE awards, Syal’s work has scored multiple BAFTA nominations and wins, features on school and university syllabuses, and was said to be among Her Majesty the Queen’s favorite TV programs. Syal has also received the Women In Film and TV Award for Creative Innovation, honorary doctorates from SOAS, Manchester and Birmingham Universities and was the Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University in 2012.
As part of the Fellowship, Meera will work directly with the arts charity over the coming year to inspire and nurture aspiring creatives through BAFTA’s year-round learning, inclusion, and talent programs. The Fellowship will be presented to Meera Syal during the BAFTA Television Awards ceremony as part of a special commemoration of her work to-date, on Sunday 14 May at the Royal Festival Hall.
Meera Syal said: “I am thrilled and honored to be the recipient of the BAFTA Fellowship. I am particularly delighted that this year’s award is twinned with opportunities to mentor and support participants in BAFTA’s learning program – where I hope to engage with many talented practitioners and continue working to make BAFTA a truly representative and celebratory place for all our creatives. And I am grateful for the chance to pay forward the opportunities and experiences I have been lucky enough to have over my career.”
Jane Millichip, CEO at BAFTA said: “Meera Syal has made an extraordinary impact on the screen and literary arts. As an actor and writer, she is an exceptional storyteller with enormous range, which means she is loved by peers and the public as much as she is critically acclaimed. At BAFTA, we very much look forward to working with Meera over the next year on her mentoring scheme. We couldn’t be more delighted to present her the BAFTA Fellowship and celebrate her next month at our BAFTA Television Awards with P&O Cruises.”
Meera Syal was born in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands and was educated at Manchester University where she read English and Drama, gaining a Double First. Her career began at the Royal Court, and alongside her many and continuing theatre roles, her talent saw her quickly graduate to screenwriting – scripting Bhaji on the Beach in 1993 and My Sister Wife in 1994 – as well as writing and performing in the pioneering comedy sketch-show The Real McCoy (1991 – 1994).
In 1996 Syal famously joined the cast and writing team of the acclaimed 90s radio and television show Goodness Gracious Me (1996 – 2001), before going on to star in Emmy-award winning television series The Kumars at No. 42 (2001 – 2006) as grandmother Ummi, which earned her a BAFTA nomination for her role as well as gaining recognition from the late Queen Elizabeth II who was quoted telling former Radio 2 editor Phil Jones, in 2001, that it was her favorite TV show.
Syal’s career has continued to grow and evolve since the 90s and 00s with two of her novels being adapted for the screen, to great acclaim; Anita and Me (2002) and Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee (2005). Syal has also since taken on roles in popular television series and programs such as Beautiful People (2008-2009), Dr Who (2009), Horrible Histories (2009), Broadchurch (2015), The Split (2018-2022), Back To Life (2021), The Devil’s Hour (2021), Roar (2022), and The Sandman (2022), as well as roles in theatrical releases such as Doctor Strange (2016), Paddington 2 (2017), Yesterday (2019), Spin (2021), and The Almond and The Seahorse (2023). She will be seen in two new major series this autumn; The Wheel of Time (2023) and Mrs Siddhu Investigates (2023).
Fellows previously honoured for their work in television include Sir Billy Connolly, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Jon Snow, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Joanna Lumley, Melvyn Bragg, Michael Palin, Sir Trevor MacDonald, Sir David Attenborough, Dame Julie Walters and Kate Adie. The BAFTA Television Awards with P&O Cruises are the biggest night in the television calendar, recognising the incredible quality and variety of television that was enjoyed in 2022, with shows such as This Is Going To Hurt, The Responder, Bad Sisters and The Crown leading the nominations. The BAFTA Television Awards with P&O Cruises will be hosted by comedians Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan and will be broadcast on BBC One and iPlayer on Sunday 14 May at 7pm. Ahead of the ceremony, the public can tune into Clara Amfo and Michelle Visage live from the red-carpet on BAFTA’s YouTube, bringing viewers even closer to the action.
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