Who Do You Think You Are? – Sunetra Sarker

Sunetra Sarker
Image Credit: BBC/Stephen Perry/Wall to Wall

The former Casualty and Brookside star, who is soon to appear in the new series of Broadchurch, examines her Indian heritage – a past that she has previously “denied”.

She first looks up her Great Grandfather, who it transpires is someone famous in India. The man in question, Nares Chandra Sen-Gupta, was a lawyer, author, feminist, and a campaigner for Indian independence. He translated books that were banned by the British, improved education for girls, and also helped to reunite Bengal after it British had partitioned it. His sister Charuprabha meanwhile went to jail three times for her nationalist believes and had a correspondence with Ghandi.

Going back another generation, Sarker discovers that her 2xGreat Grandfather was a landowner in modern-day Bangladesh, back when it was still part of India. In fact, he was landed gentry. Years later however, when Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan, the family got caught up in the Bangladesh War of Independence, and Sarker learns of the atrocities committed by the occupying Pakistani forces (the programme does mention that both sides committed atrocities, but those made by Bangladesh are not highlighted much).

This episode is a reminder of our both own problematic history in terms of the British Empire, as well as the crimes of the more recent past. I was not even aware of the Bangladesh War of Independence, so this was something that really drew me in. It was also interesting to learn parts of India’s history, such as that of the country’s most famous author, Rabindranath Tagore, who had a correspondence with Sen-Gupta.

Therefore, this has been the most educational episode of the series. It makes me want to learn more about the periods and places covered.

Who Do You Think You Are? is on BBC One at 20.00.