Grease Monkeys is impossible to describe although I think Ahsen Bhatti, who plays the shows central character Dave, sums it up best when he describes it as Only Fools And Horses on acid. Dark, gritty, working class, innovative and as funny as f**k are a few word we'd choose to describe it and with a cast that includes stars from The Kumars, East Is East and Corrie it was always going to be a winning formula.
Designer Magazine caught up with Ahsen Bhatti to find out why Grease Monkeys could be destined for an Office like transformation from cult comedy to mainstream success and Indira Joshi who plays a ghost in the program and is better known for her role as the mother in the Kumars at No 42.
AHSEN BHATTI AKA DAVE
Q: If you looked at the cast list for Grease Monkey's
people might assume it's an Asian comedy, but that isn't really where it's
coming from. You've described it as Only Fools And Horses on acid. Could
A: Grease Monkeys is about these 2 blokes that are trying to make the best of a bad lot. Life hasn't opened doors to them, they didn't have opportunities and they didn't do well at school and they sort of lean towards the life of crime and that's the way things pan out sometimes especially in working class areas. To pigeon hole it as an Asian comedy or dramady would be to it a dis-service and also to insult the viewers intelligence. I think that what we don't do enough of in this country is celebrate the fact that we live in a multicultural society. Who's to say that Dave, the character that I play or Jake Woods (Happy) aspirations are are any different from one another. What's to say that a white blokes aspirations are any different to an asian blokes aspirations if they live in the same area.
It's quite clever because i've described it as "Only Fools
And Horses on acid". Now that's giving it a massive precedent because everyone's
going to compare it to Only Fools And Horses. You can't describe it and
it's not really like anything. It's very surreal and that's lots of serious
moments in it in the way that Only Fools And Horses has serious moments,
but it also has really funny moments in it as well.
Q: Even though it's based around the family garage,
it is really all about Dave and Happy isn't it?
A: It is the Dave and Happy show, although later on there of other episode's primarily about Rita (the sister) and Mandy so it does show the girls side of things. Even though Dave's a bit of a ladies man he never gets one up on the women - the women always come out on top - and that's because he's a fool in that sense, he's all over the place when it comes to women. Whereas in comparison Happy's quite settled and Dave is quite envious of that.
I'm literally the opposite of Dave, but that the pleasure
of acting because it allows you to be this wild mad crazy character and
then you go home and night and get on with your life. I'm just happy. I've
got 2 kids, my missus and i'm just a simple bloke. Ignorance is bliss and
I tell you i'm as ignorant as they come.
Q: It's got cult feel about it, but you know at any
moment it could just go stella. Would you agree?
A: All credit to the BBC for trying something new and if it gets good viewing figures on BBC3 i'm sure it will....in the same way as the Office was put on really late at night and suddenly got a little bit of a cult audience. I think Grease Monkey's has got that culty feel about it. It's not for everyone, but people who tune into it are like wow!!!
Q: Finally you've got to tell us what it was like to
work with Huggy Bear?
A: Huggy Bear used to be my nickname at college and I phoned up my best mate when I was on set and said could you just speak to him. He says "Do you know you I am?", my mate goes "No I've got no idea" "I'm Antonia Fagas" and my mate was just silent. He's a really really old bloke now, but it was like I've just done a scene with Huggy Bear!!!
INDIRA JOSHI AKA JASBIR
Q: Obviously the last time we saw you was with Gareth
Gates for Comic Relief. Is that the first time they've actually had a decent
Comedy Team up there?
A: It was great fun. When we were on Top Of The Pops I thought the revolution was here - who have thought that on TOTP's they'd have ageing Asians bopping around. Gareth is very very sweet boy. He's a child really at 17 and he's completely unaffected and normal and straight.
I like the song as well, it's an old sixties song you know, but I like the way he's done it...it's got a catchy beat.
Q: If you could fill us in where your character Jasbir
fits into Grease Monkeys?
A: Jasbir is their mother and she's a ghost. So i'm not living at all. I think what it is really is dad's conscience because he's worried about the children and he can't deal with it. His wife probably took control while he was alive and he's a bit lost. He's worried about his son and he's worried about his daughter not getting married. So I think Jasbir is actually his conscience.
I played it very realistically so he can see me, but nobody
else can. I actually wished there had been a few special effects - I would
have loved that!!!
Q: What's happening with the Kumars at the moment?
A: I think there's going to be another series in the Autumn. It's done really well because we've just finished the 3rd Series. In the beginning we were a bit worried about people knowing who we were because in the first series they didn't have a clue but it's still fun. I think it's best when they really join in and improvise with us. I remember Richard E Grant started doing his own thing and it's great fun then.
Do you know it's very popular in other countries as well and they're doing their own format in America, Holland, Germany, Australia. They're doing their own versions of the Kumars. I believe the American version is very good and the one that we did with Richard E Grant and Michael Parkinson they've got it almost exactly like that except it's in California and it's a Mexican family.
Watch Grease Monkeys on Tuesdays on BBC3
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