Anita & Me - Production Notes

Anita & Me
Production Notes

About The Production:

ANITA AND ME, Meera Syal's first novel, was published to acclaim in 1996, winning the Betty Trask Prize. Already established as an actress and screenplay writer (her script Bhaji on the Beach was directed by Gurinder Chadha in 1994), Meera Syal adapted her novel for the screen and teamed up with producer Paul Raphael, taking the role of co- producer herself.

Meera Syal and Paul Raphael worked together for three years, developing the script and raising the finance. "Because Meera is an writer and an actress, with so many skills, she was willing and able to retain the integrity of the book while still massaging the story into working as a ninety minute film." declares Raphael. The screenplay updates the novel a few years from the late sixties to 1972 but, says Raphael, "There was still a naivet about Britain then that doesn't exist today."

Seeking a director, Raphael and Syal approached Metin Huseyin, asking him to read the book and then an early draft of the script. Raphael had been looking to work with Huseyin, and the director responded immediately to the story. "I see the film as a fairy tale blended with the hard facts of life - hilarious and touching." says Huseyin. Adds Raphael, "Metin works well with actors, particularly children. Too many directors get stuck behind the monitor these days, but Metin has the confidence to work with the camera, while keeping eye contact with the cast." For Syal, as the scriptwriter, Huseyin was an excellent choice of director. "He could make suggestions which worked, while showing respect for the material. He provided the objectivity I needed at that stage. Meanwhile Paul was working hard to raise the finance. He's like a rottweiler. So it was a great three-way collaboration."

Says Paul Raphael, "Meera has a unique style of writing. While she seems to be leading you in one direction, amusing you with her portrayal of this well meaning community, she has actually subtly woven in information about the racism that existed then, largely through ignorance of another culture which has been thrown in amongst it."

"Meena's story is an adventure, as every day is for a child. The race element gives the story a solid and serious backbone, although it is never rammed down the throat of the audience, and every character's point of view is explained and reasoned." adds Metin Huseyin. He describes the village of Tollington as a Midlands version of Springfield (home to The Simpsons), where each recognisable character is embroiled in their own particular power/ love struggle.

"I hope that people will come away feeling they have seen another side of the Asian experience. But it's not just a British-Asian story. We live in an increasingly shrinking world, made up of nations who come from everywhere. This is a story about all of us, and how we adapt." concludes Meera Syal.

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Metin Huseyin graduated from the National Film and Television School, following a Fine Art Degree. His graduation film Tight Trousers, which he wrote and directed, received a BAFTA nomination in the Short Film category and was chosen as the British entry to the Student Film Oscars.

His television directing credits include the six part youth drama series, Teenage Health Freak, for Channel Four; Harry Enfield Christmas Show 1992; and the All New Alexi Sayle series, which won the Bronze Rose at 1994 Montreux Television Festival.

The television drama series Common As Muck, which Huseyin directed, was the winner of 1995 Royal Television Society Award for Best Drama, and was nominated for a BAFTA Award.

Huseyin directed a major six hour drama adaptation of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, for BBC and Arts and Entertainment, starring Max Beesley, Samantha Morton and Kathy Burke.

In 2001, he directed his first feature film, It Was an Accident, starring Thandie Newton, Max Beesley and Hugh Quarshie.


British Producer Paul Raphael began his career in the film industry in 1978, as an assistant director on John Schlesinger’s Yanks. During the following years he worked in a variety of capacities, on films including Nijinsky, A Christmas Carol and Sid and Nancy.

In 1986, he was line producer on Alex Cox’s anarchic Spanish Western Straight to Hell, and went on to co-produce Pascali’s Island, directed by James Dearden; The Rachel Papers, directed by Damien Harris and Mara, directed by Mike Figgis.

In 1996 Paul Raphael produced The Leading Man, directed by John Duigan and starring Jon Bon Jovi and Thandie Newton. In 1998 he produced Rogue Trader, starring Ewan McGregor and Anna Friel, again directed by James Dearden, based on the true story of Nick Leeson and the infamous downfall of Barings Bank. In 2001 he produced Gypsy Woman, staring Jack Davenport, directed by Sheree Folkson, for Sky Pictures.

Paul Raphael is developing several feature films through his own production company, Starfield Productions, and recently executive produced television documentaries For God’s Sake, and The Spice Girls US Tour, both for Channel 4.

MEERA SYAL - writer, co-producer

While studying at Manchester University for a degree in English and Drama, Meera Syal wrote a play One of Us, which won the National Studio Drama Award, and earned her an equity card. She has appeared in numerous British television series and films, including Absolutely Fabulous, Sammie and Rosie Get Laid and the comedy series The Kumars at No 42, which was written by and co-stars Sanjeev Bhasker. In spring 2002, she will co-star with Jasper Carrott in a television sitcom, about a racially mixed marriage.

With Sanjeev Bhasker, Meera Syal is one of the team who writes and stars in the ground breaking Asian comedy series Goodness Gracious Me, which ran for three series on radio, and three series on television, winning many awards around the world.

Anita and Me, Meera Syal’s first novel, won the Betty Trask Fiction Award, and was nominated for the Guardian Fiction Award, and has sold a million copies to date. Her second novel Life Is Not All Ha Ha Hee Hee was published to acclaim in 1999 and has been optioned for adaptation to the screen.

Her first screenplay, Bhaji on the Beach, was directed by Gurinder Chadha in 1993.

Meera Syal has written the book for the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Bombay Dreams, inspired by Bollywood.


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