Ameet Chana’s new film is the Slough-based comedy-drama Little English (Picture: Getty)
The actor and DJ Ameet Chana, 47, aka Adi Ferreira in EastEnders, has wooed us with his love of Metro’s famous 60 Seconds slot. He stars in Little English, a new film set in the sunny uplands of Slough.
Here he talks about why Sly Stallone was a childhood hero, his love for bhangra and how Harrow (the town, not the school) widened his horizons…
Welcome to Metro 60 Seconds.
I am already very familiar! It’s always the first thing I read in Metro.
That’s lovely to hear! OK, tell us about your new film, Little English.
Little English is a comedy-drama set in Slough. It’s about a middle-class Punjabi family, who have arranged their son’s wedding to a young girl from a village in Punjab. On the night of the wedding, he does a runner. So, this young girl ends up stuck in his house where she doesn’t know anyone and she knows ‘little English’ – meaning her English isn’t brilliant. The film basically tracks her journey finding her place in this new world.
Who do you play?
Bobby is just this nice guy. He’s a turban-wearing Sikh from India, who married the older daughter in the family five or six years ago, and basically became the do-it-all son-in-law.
So, if anything needs doing – the house needs decorating, the car needs fixing, someone needs dropping to the supermarket, Bobby’s the guy. His wife is always saying ‘Oh, don’t worry – Bobby will do it.’
How about you, are you your family’s Mr Fix-It?
My wife would love me to be! But I’m not that guy. Ironically, I come from a family of carpenters and builders, but I’m the first person to pick up the phone and get someone else to do the work.
Give us three words that describe you.
I would say I’m a realist. I think I’m funny and I’m a loyal friend.
Do people still mainly recognise you from EastEnders?
While UK Gold existed, I always knew when our episodes were on, because you’d suddenly get people on the street recognising you again. But definitely Bend It Like Beckham still lives with me. It’s going to be 21 years old this April. It’s magically timeless. On the surface, it’s about a young Indian girl who wants to play football but, subliminally, that film is about anyone who’s wanted to do something, who had restrictions in doing it, chasing their dream.
It speaks to people on so many different levels across all cultures and languages. And I still get people coming up to me now, saying, ‘You know what, if it wasn’t for you and that film, I wouldn’t have been able to come out.’ [Chana played the gay best friend]. So, it is a film that will proudly stay with me forever.
Ameet with his on-screen brothers Ray Panthaki and Raji James (Picture: BBC)
Are you still in touch with your EastEnders family?
For over two years they became my first family, because for 12 hours a day, for five or six days a week, I saw more of them than my own. And we had the same fun and the same amount of feuds that a real family would have. Just the other day I was talking to Nabil Elouahabi who played Tariq, who ended up being our half-brother, because it was his birthday and he turned 50. And Ray Panthaki, who played my younger brother, Ronny, we’re still very much in touch.
I work for the Rifco Theatre Company as an associate director and I contacted Raji James, who played my older brother, about doing a reading for us. We don’t often all hang out at the same time, but we do our best to stay in touch.
More: Sixty Seconds
What was your childhood like?
I grew up in a very tight-knit Punjabi family. We moved to Harrow when I was about 13 and I experienced this kind of cultural explosion, because I had never lived anywhere before that was so heavily populated by South Asians. I was like, ‘Where did all these people come from?’ I became very culturally connected, very much into South Asian, Bollywood Hindi films and the bhangra music that was coming out of the Midlands and London. I’m a massive bhangra-head.
Where do you suggest newbies start with bhangra music?
My bhangra specialist music show on Sunrise Radio every Saturday 7-10am!
Ameet looked up to John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone (Pictures: Rex/Shutterstock)
As a young Anglo-Indian, who was your acting inspiration?
The irony is that I grew up watching Sylvester Stallone and John Travolta, because they looked a little bit like me – they kind of looked brown. And the film Bugsy Malone was a massive inspiration, seeing these kids playing grown-up parts.
Growing up in London in the 1980s, there wasn’t much representation of South Asian culture at all on films and TV. But I watched a lot of Hindi cinema, with legends like Amitabh Bachchan. He’s the Robert De Niro of Indian cinema.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I’m a sucker for a beer and a burger. Any time, in any situation. As long as it doesn’t have tomatoes or pickles in it. Lettuce is allowed.
What makes you nervous?
Doing nothing. I can’t stand doing nothing. I’m really driven.
Little English is out now in cinemas
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‘People still say if it wasn’t for that film, they wouldn’t have been able to come out’