Ghap Shap with Anita Rani
By Ninder Kaur
This Bradford-born television presenter is never far from our screens, whether she is getting down and dirty on Countryfile or reporting for the One Show.
But now she has taken on a different challenge swapping her wellies for sparkly stilettoes.
We caught up with the star that made her dancing debut last week on Strictly Come Dancing as Team Glita.
How does it feel to be swapping wellies for spray tans and sequins?
Ha, not quite spray tans but I love strictly. I always thought if the phone rang and they asked me, I would immediately say yes and that’s exactly what happened.
It is the most beautiful and glamorous show on telly. It is proper family entertainment and you get to learn a new skill, which is great. I have always wanted to learn how to dance.
How is it working with newcomer Gleb Savchenko?
He is such an amazing dancer and a brilliant teacher. He is the most gorgeous man on earth so I am a very happy woman. Every so often I look up at him and I’m like wow you are beautiful and he’s like “Focus, Anita focus.”
Have you managed to discover your inner-Beyoncé?
I thought I already had an inner Beyoncé before I started training with Gleb. Now that I am training with him I realised I don’t know anything about dancing. What you do in a club or at a wedding is nothing like proper dancing. It’s like learning a new language. I have never done any dance training before. I am a complete novice and it is really tough.
Who is your dancing inspiration?
Beyoncé naturally. Audrey Hepburn, Madhuri Dixit, Helen from the old school Bollywood movie. She was a cabaret dancer. She was amazing. She was in all the classic films like Sholay and she performed all the raunchy sexy numbers.
Can we expect something of the sort?
Maybe, yes why not. I am not holding anything back.
You are one of the rare few people to have made it big on mainstream TV how does that feel?
I never even considered I wouldn’t be in the mainstream. I always thought if I were going to have a career in telly of course it would always be in the mainstream. It would be weird to not work in mainstream television because you are chopping off 90% of who you are.
Did you face any challenges whilst pursuing your career?
Not really. I have been quite lucky. I moved to London after university in 2001 and started working as researcher. I was working at Top of the Pops when I was 20. I just used to go up to really important people and say “Hello I’m Anita, can you give me a job?” And they would be like all right yes. An executive producer said I should work in TV and he gave me my first TV time. It was a really gilded way to become a presenter.
You have had some award winning shows and been nominated as Best on Screen Personality. What would you say makes a good presenter?
To become a good presenter its like any other profession you are constantly learning and constantly improving. For me, the people I like to watch are the people who are the most real. The ones that when you meet them in real life, they are just like that and you think- ahh that was effortless that didn’t even seem like an interview. They are just so themselves. For me they are the best presenters.
You are one of the most diverse broadcasters on the BBC: from presenting the Asian Network’s breakfast show to covering the Royal Wedding-What do you enjoy the most about your job?
If I am doing a live broadcast for D day and I am talking to a veteran from the Second World War or if I
am in the middle of the countryside talking to a farmer or if I’m in India talking to a person about their daily commute, its all the same for me. I am basically getting somebody to tell me their story.
You have never shied from discussing culturally sensitive topics whether that is encountering victims of forced marriages or investigating the difficulties facing the over 65’s in the workplace. What has been the most challenging topic to discuss?
Usually when I am covering stories for work, it isn’t coming from a personal point of view, I am just covering the story and I am quite impartial.
Naturally, if it’s a story about forced marriages for example and I am talking to young Punjabi women then it does cut me because obviously that is a community that I understand. I am incredibly passionate about women’s issues and although I have not vocalised them too much, I am passionate about empowering young women to be educated and not to have arranged marriages and basically stand on their own two feet and be who they want. I understand the pressures that Asian girls may go through that other people might necessarily go through.
You recently made headlines after discovering your family’s fate during the violence that consumed India at the end of British rule. How was that for you?
It was amazing, a completely life changing experience. To be asked to do a, ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ was such a huge honour. I went to go explore the story of my maternal grandfather, who I had never met because he died before I was born. Then obviously I am telling the story of partition, which is absolutely directly part of my history. Then I found myself not only telling the story about my grandfather but about millions of people who had gone through the same thing. It was a very powerful and moving experience.
Why did you decide to take part in the programme?
I wanted to know about my grandfather. In Indian families you ask questions and somebody gives you some answer and then somebody says we don’t know and then you think- you lot are useless. This opportunity was brilliant as someone has gone off and done all the thorough research so that I get the proper answers that I am looking for. It was only because my grandfather was in the army that there were records.
What can we look forward to?
Strictly and Countryfile. But Strictly, Strictly, Strictly, I need all the support I can get. I need people to back me if they think I am worth backing. Friends have set me up as Rani’s Army. Gleb and me have the best team name because if you put both our names together its team Glita.
Tell us more…
If you weren’t a presenter…I would be dancing in another life. I would have loved to be a dancer.
Favourite programmes? Countryfile
Favourite film? Enter The Dragon
Favourite food? Curry
Favourite place to visit? Whitby
What do you do in your free time? Free time? What’s free time? I cook and I potter around listening to a lot of music. I like reading too.
Favourite place in Bradford? Mum and dad’s house.
Strictly is on every Saturday at 6:20 on BBC1.
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