The highly anticipated new series PREMature comes to screens and lifts the curtains on life’s struggles. Teenager Prem Mehta must overcome the death of his grandmother and sudden divorce of his parents to learn to grow up fast, however the strained relationship with his parents and constant obstacles make this a tough journey to make. Whether it is family, bullying, marriage or the trials of youth, director Rohith Katbamna brings a fresh and surreal window into the troubled lives of our characters. We sat down with Meera Ganatra who plays Prem’s emotionally damaged mother Neelam. Meera gives us the low down on her role in the series and her experience shooting this unique show.
What attracted you to this project?
The director Rohith got in touch with me through Casting Call Pro which is an actor’s website where actors can apply for jobs they feel suitable for. I looked at the script for the pilot and I saw his previous work where he did a great documentary for South Africa called Hooking in Joburg, which was quite controversial but very real. Based on that I thought this guy has got something and I was able to meet him and get the job. PREMature is very naturalistic, emotional and has dark humour; it is very different to other TV shows that are out.
Tell me about your character and her role in this plot.
I play Neelam who is the mother of the protagonist and the series begins quite dramatically with her mother passing away and she finds out her husband has cheated on her again. Their marriage breaks down after 21 years so she has to find her feet again and cope with two major traumatic experiences. The relationship with her children and whole family is also affected by this, she has no control over the whole situation and she is very vulnerable and in a broken state. Throughout the series you will see how she copes with it, what she does and how she emerges at the end. There are things she does that may surprise you!
What was your experience like bringing Neelam’s issues to life?
As a performer you always want a character that is challenging and you can get your feelings into, I have been working on this project for the past couple of years since I first joined the series and filmed the pilot. So when we filmed the sixth episode I had done all my research on the character and been there and felt it. It is hard to do but when you really believe in the character you can bring reality to it. I have not experienced any of the things she went through but I am married with kids so you empathise with people who go through those experiences.
As a mother yourself could you relate in any way to Neelam’s storyline?
When you have a child in your life it is the most amazing experience any woman can go through. The relationship you have with your children is so precious and pure, but in this story the relationship with my older children is not broken but difficult and as a mother it is a very sad and frightening position where this child is growing up and moving away from you. You can feel very guilty and a breakdown of a marriage would also be difficult.
Do you feel the series breaks away from Asian stereotypes?
The series has got nothing to do with being Indian or Asian, it is about family and situations that could happen in any household that no one would really know about it. I play an Indian but it is not relevant at all because the director envisaged the series not to have ethnicity in the forefront. I could be a white woman and she would deal with it in the same way. It is nice to have a character who is not totally reliant on being Indian but you can still bring your culture and essence in because that is who we are. You are not pretending to be something.
Is it nerve racking making your TV debut?
Not really because I have done a lot of short films and corporate films before, this is just my first big six part series, but it was good as we were part of the journey and had time to get into the characters over time unlike short films I had done which were shot over a couple of days and then you’re done. This was easier as a result.
What do you want audiences to take away from this series?
I want them to enjoy the series, it is very real, dark, emotional and funny but at the same time you want the audience to relate to something in it. As it is based around a school there are young characters so younger audiences can relate to things going on in the school such as bullying or harassment. A female audience can also relate to the journey a woman has to go through and the things you are forced to do when you have a family and career, you can find your feet and be strong.
Catch PREMature on channels
Virgin Media: 233