London: The BBC yesterday issued a one-line statement after a report that the Indian actor, Dalip Tahil, may be forced to leave the cast of the TV soap, Eastenders, because he apparently lacked a proper work permit.
We are considering any potential problems with a view to resolving them as soon as possible, said the statement. This followed a front-page report, Swoop On Illegal Eastend Star, in The People, a tabloid newspaper on Sunday, that Eastenders star Dalip Tahil faces being axed from the show over a work permit fiasco.
The paper hints that there is a sexual scandal involved as well by publishing a photograph of Tahil, in sunglasses, with a companion. Alas, for the paper, the female companion is his wife, Amrita!
Tahil, 48, originally came to London from Mumbai after being recruited to the cast of Bombay Dreams but switched after a year to working for BBC TVs long-running soap, Eastenders, in which he plays Dan Ferreira, the head of a British Asian family with a brood of children.
Tahil would not make any comment yesterday but the gist of the case against him is that when he switched from Bombay Dreams to Eastenders, neither he nor the BBC obtained proper authorisation from the Home Office to make the switch of employment legal.
British Asian actors have complained to their union Equity over the fact that an Indian-born actor got the coveted part before them, The People reported.
Friends of Tahil said that he was the victim of jealousy on the part of British Asian actors who are being pushed out of the limelight by the arrival on the British scene of such imported stars as Om Puri and Anupam Kher who now regularly get work in Britain.
No complaint has been made, however, about the New York-based Madhur Jaffrey, who many say is miscast as Ferreiras wife in Eastenders.
Unfortunately for Tahil, he has become the focus for discontent on the part of many British Asian actors, who want to keep Bollywood stars out of Britain but want their own fraternity to be given opportunities in Bollywood.
The Tahil row has been simmering for months. In a recent letter to the journal of Equity, the actors union, veteran British Asian actor Renu Setna complained: There is no dearth of talent in the pool of British Asian artistes. Why then was it necessary for the BBC to cast an artiste from abroad in Eastenders?
Equity is a difficult situation because it is trying to represent both Tahil, who has become a visiting member, and British Asian actors, who are full members and who have complained that one of their number should have been picked for the (very well paid) role of Ferreira. Equity has decided to back the latter.
Despite the suggestion in The People that Tahil faces deportation from UK and that his role will be written out from Eastenders, the BBC will probably be able to use its muscle to convince the Home Office that Tahil has star quality not possessed by his British Asian rivals.
Tahil will not be flattered by Equitys counter-argument that Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman and Kevin Spacey, who have all worked in Britain, have international star appeal, which the Indian, important Bollywood actor though he is, lacks.
However, a Tahil fan said: Thats a matter of opinion.
Earlier this year
In a news report in May, Dalip Tahil had hit back at British Asian actors who opposed his casting in Eastenders. After his stint in Bombay Dreams, Tahil joined the hit BBC One show in June as the head of a new family, the Ferreiras. British Asian actors called the BBCs casting decision disgraceful because they said a UK performer should have been given the role.
Tahil responded to this then saying, One aspect of what I read hurts because British Asian actors have come to Bollywood and pursued a career there. One I know couldnt even speak Hindi.
British Asian actor, Albert Moses (East Is East) complained in trade newspaper The Stage that homegrown talent was being overlooked.
But the BBCs stand was: After due consideration, Dalip was deemed to be the most appropriate actor for the job.