Thursday , July 25 2024
Meera Syal in 'Mrs. Sidhu Investigates' (Credit: Laurence Cendrowicz/AcornTV)

TV Interview: Suk Pannu on ‘Mrs. Sidhu Investigates’

Mrs. Sidhu Investigates is a new crime series on streaming service Acorn TV. The show stars Meera Syal (The Kumars at No. 42, Yesterday) as high-class Indian caterer Mrs. Sidhu, who encounters murders during her catering assignments much to the annoyance of Detective Chief Inspector Burton. Mrs. Sidhu insists on teaming up with DCI Burton (Craig Parkinson) to solve these crimes, even though he already has a full-time partner on the force, Detective Sergeant Mint (Naana Agyei-Ampadu).

I spoke with series creator and writer Suk Pannu (Fit, The Kumars at No. 42), who explained how he developed the show and addressed challenges in bringing it over from radio to television.

If you could redo things in your life, would you make a better caterer or detective?

If I had to do it again, I probably would have been a chef. I love food! There’s a love of food running through this show. I worked in catering when I was younger. 

Recently, I interviewed Meera Syal’s husband, Sanjeev Bhaskar. If we could make an Unforgotten and Mrs. Sidhu Investigates crossover, who would win: DI Khan or Mrs. Sidhu?

It’s always going to be Mrs. Sidhu! The origins of this character are in my own aunties. 

On Providing Regional Context

What’s the significance of Slough, U.K., where Mrs. Sidhu Investigates is set?

People look down on Slough a lot. A lot of immigrants went there in the ’50s and ’60s to work, coming in from the colonies. It’s kind of concrete and it wasn’t really attractive, but it’s also plunked down in the middle of the most expensive real estate in the country.

Slough is a few miles from Windsor Castle, where we’ve got royalty, and another couple of miles from Eton College, where our prime ministers are all educated. It’s like an incredible concrete thing laid in the middle of a golf course. People sort of tiptoe around it.

Photo of Suk Pannu, creator of 'Mrs Sidhu Investigates', standing at a balcony and smiling
Suk Pannu (Credit: Toby Madden)

On Creating Mrs. Sidhu

And how was the auntie experience for you?

When I grew up, we were brought up by our parents, but we were kind of brought up by our aunties as well. These were wonderful women, who were full of love. They had lots of lovely cooking. They were also really great at getting your secrets out of you. And they knew what you were getting up to before you knew it half the time! 

Well, I thought one day, wouldn’t be fantastic if one of these women was like Miss Marple, one of the great sleuths of the world? Wind forward many, many years and that seems to have come to pass. 

You’ve worked with Syal before in television. What are the key ingredients of your collaboration?

Meera is a fantastic person to be around and work with. She loved Mrs. Sidhu when she first heard about it. It’s been a long time trying to get it going. 

Meera inhabits that character naturally. She’s got the warmth and is beautifully sincere in the touching moments. She has the comedy chops to pull off the funny moments as well. You couldn’t want a better person to be Mrs. Sidhu!

Actors Meera Syal and Craig Parkinson facing each other outside of a building
Meera Syal and Craig Parkinson (Credit: Laurence Cendrowicz/AcornTV)

On Moving from Radio to TV

What are the challenges with adapting this from radio to a television format? 

We have a tradition of radio in the U.K. Radio 4 produces a lot good drama and comedy sometimes as a staging ground to move onto telly. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, you’re very fortunate. 

Radio is a very different medium to TV because it feels very personal. A lot of people listen to radio while they’re doing other things. It’s like your friend in the room. It speaks closely into your ear. 

TV is totally visual. It needs to grab all your attention, all the time. The world of the radio show was perhaps less real than the world of the TV show, which features real policemen. 

Photo of actor Naana Agyei Ampadu looking pensive outside near a blue catering van
Naana Agyei-Ampadu (Credit: Laurence Cendrowicz/AcornTV)

We’re familiar from watching so much crime with how the police work, that it had to shift in the grounding levels of the show. There’s a real cop, but it’s still done in a comedic way while the procedures are as right as we can get them. 

At the same time, you have to construct a light aspect with the amateur sleuth so that you’re blending a set of realities: real cop world with the escapist, fantastical Miss Marple world. I think bringing those together worked because of the chemistry between Meera and Craig. 

On Other Strong Partnerships

Aside from Mrs. Sidhu and DCI Burton, there are the relationships between Mrs. Sidhu and Tez and then DS Mint and DCI Burton. What do you like about those?

They help to anchor it in all sorts of ways. Gurjeet [Singh] plays Tez, her son. He’s stretching her, of course, because he’s demanding and he hasn’t really found his way in life yet. He’s like a lot of people.  

Mrs. Sidhu loves him and so she kind of overlooks his flaws. Tez has a lot of enthusiasm. Each week, he goes: I could be in the tech business, in the Swordcon convention, or in the gym and be a boxer. I love the mother-son dynamic. 

Mint and Burton are a cop duo on their own. She brings a different bit of warmth into that police station. Naana plays her so brilliantly as a fun character. Again, they build a real bond between them at the more dramatic moments and where you pop in a bit of comedy.

Visit Acorn TV for more information and to stream Mrs. Sidhu Investigates.

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros is Pop Culture Editor for Blogcritics Magazine. She frequently covers TV, film and theater. Her portfolio includes interviews with Ndaba Mandela and actors Juliette Binoche, Fran Drescher, Derek Jacobi and Brent Spiner. She's also spoken with notable voice actors Petrea Burchard, Garry Chalk, Peter Cullen and Brian Drummond.

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