1 9 9 3 (UK)
4 x 60 minute episodes
This four-part £2.9 million BBC2 adaptation of Hanif Kureishi’s Whitbread Prize-winning saga of 1970s sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll follows 17-year-old Karim’s sexual and racial self-realisation through his problematic relationships as he faces an existential struggle to accept his origins.
It’s 1974, and Karim (Naveen Andrews) lives in the South London suburb of Bromley with his English mother, Margaret (Brenda Blethyn) and Pakistani civil servant father, Haroon (Roshan Seth) who has become a kind of part-time spiritual guru (the “Buddha” of suburbia of the title) to his middle-class neighbours at the spiritual equivalent of Tupperware parties.
In the first episode, Haroon ends up bedding Eva Kay (Susan Fleetwood) at one such encounter while Karim, who has accompanied his father, gets stoned with Eva’s son and Karim’s sixth-form class-mate, Charlie (Steven Mackintosh) and ends up wanking him.
At Haroon’s next session, at the home of Eva’s friend Marianne (Shirley King), Karim meets Marianne’s daughter, Helen (Vicky Murdock) and the two take some acid and are tripping when they attend the session.
The next day, Karim bikes over to Helen’s house but her father forbids Karim from seeing her, subjects him to racist insults, and slams the door in his face. Karim’s next stop is the house of his mum’s sister Auntie Jean (Janet Dale) and Uncle Ted (John McEnery).
Meanwhile, Asian Uncle Anwar (Badi Uzzaman) – who owns a corner shop in Penge – has beaten his wife and is on hunger strike because his teenage daughter – and Karim’s best friend – Jamila (Nisha K. Nayar) is refusing the marriage he has arranged with a 30-year-old suitor from Bombay called Changez (Harish Patel). The dowry is cash, a warm winter coat from Moss Bros, a colour TV and the collected works of Conan Doyle.
Karim is gradually drawn to London and into the arts and media world – becoming an actor in fringe theatre and falling in and out of numerous sexual relationships with both women and men – including a positively Dionysian partner-swapping workout in episode three.
Karim eventually tastes fame briefly in the Big Apple with Charlie before heading back to London, and a family and country in the throes of change.
Bromley’s most famous son, David Bowie, wrote both the theme song and the incidental music for the series.
Nisha K. Nayar