A new comedy with a high-profile cast of British Asian actors transcends ethnicity, says Roz Laws
The Effects of Lying is a remarkable film, not least because it was made on a microbudget in only 12 days. And despite a cast of high-profile, mostly British Asian, actors, there’s not a curry in sight.
Its writer, director and actors were keen to point out, following a screening at Birmingham Indian Film Festival – an event held in partnership with RTS Midlands – that the script transcends ethnicity.
The Effects of Lying, currently streaming on ITVX, is a comedy about a dysfunctional family who could be from anywhere.
Naveen (Ace Bhatti) is trying to cope with a teenage daughter with an eating disorder and a father with dementia when he discovers his wife, Sangeeta (Laila Rouass), is having an affair. His life begins to fall apart as he finds out more about his past and long-held secrets are revealed.
The cast also includes EastEnders star Navin Chowdhry, Bhasker Patel from Emmerdale and Mark Williams of Father Brown and Harry Potter fame.
Director Isher Sahota met writer James Hey when they were both working on Doctors at BBC Birmingham. Sahota was impressed by Hey’s script for The Effects of Lying when he read it more than three years ago. He said: “It was so refreshing to read a script about a British South-East Asian family that had nothing to do with their ethnicity. It’s not about what it’s like to be British Asian, it’s about love, loss and secrets.”
Bhatti confessed: “I took the role partly out of vanity, as I wanted to play a lead – I usually have smaller parts. There aren’t that many parts out there now. That’s not a complaint: that’s a challenge.”
He brought Rouass on board, who said, “To work with Ace is a joy, so I knew it wasn’t going to be shit! I’ve worked with him many times since the 2005 drama Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee.
“I loved the script and that there was really no reference to where these people were from. The characters were full of volume and body.”
Rouass’s character has a strong sex drive that overtakes any sense of morality. This might be challenging for some actors, but Rouass points out that she gained plenty of experience as the voracious Amber in the racy early-2000s ITV drama Footballers’ Wives. “For me, it’s not such a big deal to play Sangeeta,” she mused. “After Footballers’ Wives, it wasn’t that alien to me and she’s a couple of notches down from Amber! We had time to rehearse and get to know each other. And they brought in an intimacy co-ordinator for some of the scenes where I felt a little uncomfortable, so it was a safe space.”
The film was independently funded by four businessmen from Leicester. Producer Jon Tarcy told the audience: “We realised we had to get out there and do it without waiting for the cavalry to come.
“We were very worried that if we went to institutions to get funding, we might be waiting up to seven years to get started, and we wanted to do it now.
“We’re delighted it is reaching a mainstream audience on ITVX. We’re also hoping for international sales after its North American premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival.”