24 Sep 2017
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BBC unveils plans for factual content; to look at India’s Partition

MUMBAI: BBC’s factual controller Alison Kirkham has set out a future for factual content on the BBC across its channels. One of the focus areas will be India’s partition. Another show will visit Udaipur.

The likes of Claudia Winkleman, Nigella Lawson, Anita Rani, Anne Robinson and Ian Hislop will feature in new factual programmes across BBC television.

Speaking at an event for the industry and press showcasing factual content on the BBC, Kirkham announced over 35 hours of new commissions across history, science, religion, documentaries and factual entertainment that will inform, educate and entertain audiences over the coming years.

Kirkham said, “Just a few years ago, many within the industry were predicting the demise of factual in a multi-channel, multi-choice world. In fact, the opposite has proven to be true. Today audiences are rewarding the best factual TV as emphatically as ever. Leading this department, my ambition is for us to share more untold and extraordinary stories. It’s a theme that came through in many of our Bafta-winning programmes and we’ll continue to give a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard.

“We are living in a period of seismic change when it feels harder than ever to get to grips with what is happening around us. In an era of false facts and fake news, it is the role of a proudly independent BBC to respond by offering a trusted lens through which to view and understand the world. Ours is a unique mission—to inform, educate and entertain—and BBC Factual is uniquely placed to do just that.”

Kirkham outlined a series of promises that would define BBC Factual in the future and made a number of new announcements to support those plans:

“My vision in the years ahead is to offer the variety, breadth and unrivalled commitment to quality that has always been our trademark but also to engage with audiences more than ever, on their own terms, on what matters most to them today. No subject should be taboo. We can’t and won’t shy away from ambitious, complicated programmes.

“Count on us to provide a place for difficult issues and joyous passions to sit beside each other; to embrace complexity and authorship; and to take creative risks and back specialism. From history to science, religion to natural history, specialisms have always been a fundamental part of the story of BBC Factual and will continue to thrive on the BBC.

“Today we are announcing a range of new commissions that illustrate the way forward. There are programmes that open our eyes to the world, that show us what has never been seen and take us to places we have never been—and that entertain and inspire us. But there are also commissions that interrogate some of the big issues facing our society today—programmes which will be bold enough to ask challenging questions, spark tough debate and target real change.”

Travel documentary ‘The Real Marigold Hotel’ will be returning for a new four-part series in 2018. A brand-new line-up of famous senior citizens will head off on an adventure of a lifetime to India, road-testing retirement in Udaipur, in the western Indian state of Rajasthan.

Spreading around the shores of the idyllic Lake Pichola with a backdrop of majestic green hills, Udaipur is known as one of India’s most romantic cities. With its ornate turrets, balconied palaces and whitewashed havelis clustered around the waters of the lake, it is a destination ripe for exploring in retirement.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India, a major season of programmes across BBC One and BBC Two—presented by Anita Rani, Gurinder Chadha, Adnan Sarwar and Babita Sharma—brings to life some of the forgotten voices of the Partition, explores the hidden history of what happened in August 1947 and reveals the legacy Partition leaves us with today.

In August 1947, after nearly 200 years, British colonial rule in India came to an end and the country was partitioned into two independent nation states: Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. The result was the largest forced migration ever recorded, as millions of Muslims journeyed to West and East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh), while millions of Hindus and Sikhs headed in the opposite direction. Across the Indian subcontinent, communities that had coexisted for a thousand years succumbed to a bloody eruption of sectarian violence.

The season will shine a light on the human side of the Partition, looking at personal, often harrowing accounts and uncovering the unique stories of the people who did not make it into the history books—the parents, the best friends and shopkeepers—as well as revealing what life is like for those living today on either side of the Indo-Pakistan border.

In ‘Partition and Me: India 1947’, Rani explores the human impact of the Partition of India through the intimate stories of four British families, including her own, in a new two-part landmark BBC One series. Using compelling first-hand testimony from British Partition survivors, their children and grandchildren retrace the dramatic journeys they were forced to make during the Partition.

Representing the different communities caught up in the violence—Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and British colonial—they travel for the first time to the homes in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh that their families fled in terror. Their journeys include emotional meetings with long-lost family friends, encounters with neighbours of other religions who shielded their family at huge personal risk, and extraordinary stories of courage and fortitude among the horrors of the communal violence that had erupted.

Rani and her mother become the first members of their family to return to the small village in Pakistan where her grandfather lived until 1947. Anita investigates the shocking and distressing events that happened there when her grandfather’s first wife, children and her great grandfather lost their lives.

Rani said, “This is a deeply personal project. I realised there’s a generation growing up in Britain who know very little about their own history. Partition seems to be a forgotten moment in time, a shameful stain that no one wants to talk about. However, 70 years on, it’s almost the last chance to hear from the Partition survivors. There are millions of stories but the simplest way of trying to understand what happened is to look at four different experiences, representing the communities caught up in the horror. Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and British.”

In ‘India’s Partition: The Forgotten Story’, British film-maker Gurinder Chadha the director of ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ and ‘The Viceroy’s House’, travels from Southall to Delhi to find out about the Partition of India—one of the most seismic and violent events of the 20th century.

To find out why and how it happened, she crosses India, meeting people whose lives were torn apart by Partition, as well as historians who explain the complex motives behind the split. Along the way, she discovers the political and social pressures that led to Partition, and uncovers evidence that some members of the British establishment supported the divide.

Meanwhile, in ‘World’s Most Dangerous Border’ journalists and new presenting talent Adnan Sarwar and Babita Sharma travel either side of the contentious Indo-Pakistan border. From Gujarat and Sindh to the volatile and fiercely-contested northern region of Kashmir, they cross landscapes of extraordinary variety and often staggering beauty. On their journey, the pair discover enduring traditions, surprising religious diversity and unexpected flashes of modernity in the countries of their respective parents’ birth. The shadow of Partition hangs over both, but where do these two mighty nations stand in the 21st century?

‘One Week In Summer’ is set over the dramatic seven days leading up to partition of India and Pakistan, this innovative film will give a unique blow-by-blow account of that tumultuous week, as day by day, chaos consumed the Indian sub-continent during the last days of British rule.

From the flashpoints of the Punjab and Ghandi’s base in Calcutta to the burning streets of Lahore and beyond, the film tells the powerful and moving story of some of the millions of people affected by this unique historical event. Told from the perspective of ordinary villagers and townspeople caught up in events, the film reveals how the joys of Independence Day in India and Pakistan were overshadowed by misery in the summer of 1947 and explores just why the violence was so intense.

The programme features a novel blend of original first-hand testimony voiced by actors, powerful archive footage and a cast of insightful experts who will guide us through those dramatic and confusing days.

In terms of other content offerings, one of the shows is called ‘Nigella: At My Table’. This is a celebration of home cooking.

In her latest series, global TV personality Nigella Lawson shares the food she cooks for family and friends, from fresh takes on classics she has evolved over time to colourful dishes with vibrant flavours coming out of mixing ingredients from many different cultures to bring something new to everyday eating.

Meanwhile, ‘Earth from Space’ invites viewers to look at our natural world from a brand-new perspective, capturing the extraordinary beauty and diversity of the planet in astonishing detail. From animal gatherings and migrations, to tracking huge weather systems that span the globe, to a lone elephant marching across the African plain, space cameras reveal the story of our natural world like you’ve never seen it before.

400 kilometres up, breath-taking shapes and patterns emerge that can only be seen from Space. The world’s largest beaver dam in British Columbia stands out from the landscape like a wonder of the natural world. Pockedmarked holes made by wombats appear across the Australian outback like alien hives. And in Siberia, rings in the ice, only visible from space, are clear signs of warming that are putting seal pups in danger.

From Space Earth is revealed as a kaleidoscope of colour. The aurora cloaks the planet and creates a dazzling display of light; in Tanzania, a lake that looks ordinary from the ground is bright pink from space – the same colour as the flamingos that gather there. And satellite cameras reveal that our planet is changing faster than ever, as we witness the effects of deforestation on remote uncontacted tribes in the heart of the Brazilian rainforest.

‘Diana’ is a documentary that tells the inside story of the tumultuous and unprecedented week that followed the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, exploring how she came to have such an extraordinary effect on the nation and people around the world.

The film features interviews with her sons, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, speaking in detail about that week’s events from the moment they heard the news of their mother’s death to the day of the funeral itself, as well as reflecting more broadly on her life and what she meant to them both then and now.

The film also includes interviews with family members, close friends, political figures and journalists, many of them speaking for the first time about the events of that week.