Interview with Natasha Asghar, ZEE Companion

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Natasha Asghar
Natasha Asghar

It’s been quite a whirlwind few months for you since taking helm of ZEE TV’s live show ‘ZEE Companion’, how does it feel to be a part of the channel’s first daily live magazine show?
ZEE Companion is a wonderful show and I felt truly blessed to have been asked to anchor the show. There is no show like it on any other mainstream Asian channel and I still cannot believe that we have hit over 200 episodes. I really do have to pinch myself at times!

You started your media career on radio, is radio behind you now?
I began my media career on a channel called Vectone, then B4U Music came along and I was fortunate to get involved in radio along the way. I truly loved working in radio and enjoyed every single second of researching, producing and presenting my own daily show. I actually miss it a lot. I�۪m very happy doing television at the moment, but I have learnt to “never say never!�۝ I mean, as the famous Bollywood line goes, ���Kal kya hoga, kisko pata?�۝ ��� no one knows what will happen tomorrow!

[quote]I have always loved a challenge and there is nothing I find more exciting than a live show.[end_quote]

Just like radio, you’ve been given additional responsibilities on ZEE Network’s second daily live show ‘Zing Jukebox Live’, how are you finding this?
I have always loved a challenge and there is nothing I find more exciting than a live show. Plus, entertainment is my passion ��� in fact, my colleagues always jokingly tell me ���entertainment is your baby�۝!

I enjoy doing entertainment as it provides a sense of light relief – and I love having the variety in my day to interact with viewers from Zee TV as well as Zing.

What has been your most prominent highlight on the two live shows?
Being the one who started both shows is perhaps the biggest honor for any presenter and naturally is my biggest highlight too.

Away from the television side, you’ve forayed into politics, where did this interest stem from?
Politics has always been a major interest of mine, as I�۪ve been involved in the field since I was sixteen when I spent six weeks shadowing a member of the Welsh Assembly! I then did a BA in Politics and Social Policy ��� in my final year I worked as a part time researcher in the House of Commons. Politics creates lasting changes and provides support for people where it is desperately needed ��� these are qualities I feel are important and things which I want to incorporate into my everyday routine. The interest has always been there as it�۪s always been a quiet ambition of mine to help people and be the one to incite change where it is needed.

[quote]Ultimately, it�۪s all about precise time management skills and learning to use your free time carefully.[end_quote]

You could say politics is in my blood because my family has been involved in the field for generations. My Grandfather (Nana) was the first Muslim Mayor in the UK in the 1980s and my grandmother, as his Lady Mayoress was used to political life and being in the limelight. Then my father entered politics, a graduate himself in political science.

How do you plan to juggle between your election campaign and your TV work?
Since I was selected as the PPC for Newport East I have been trying to get back to Wales as much as I can to campaign. I can�۪t sugarcoat the fact that it has been incredibly difficult, but with hard work and determination, you can achieve anything. Now that we�۪re getting closer to elections, it�۪s getting even more difficult but my ZEE family have been amazing in giving me the time I need to dedicate to my campaign. Ultimately, it�۪s all about precise time management skills and learning to use your free time carefully.

What kind of change would you like to bring amongst British Asians with your election campaign?
I have always stated that I would like to see more members of the ethnic minority get into British politics. There is a huge tendency in the South Asian community to focus on politics ���back home�۝ rather than in the UK. I�۪d like to see more people who live in the UK become involved in politics in all aspects of the field – from voting, to standing, to even perhaps finding out more about your local representatives in the Council/Assembly/Parliament.

Winston Churchill said ���We make a living by what we get- But we make a life by what we give,�۝ so it�۪s important to give more in terms of involvement in order to cultivate change. Why not follow the legacy and teachings of Mahatma Ghandi in being the change we want to see in the world and being part of the British political system?

What’s the biggest challenge for you as a British Asian woman in politics today?
Unfortunately, the biggest challenge I face is still the preconceptions of the role of an Asian woman. Many traditionalists feel that it�۪s the business of every woman�۪s life to get married, maintain a house, rear children and make roti!

So, not many people believe that it�۪s possible to balance a work/home lifestyle ��� particularly with politics as it�۪s such a demanding field! But I want to prove that you can do it all ��� I can�۪t wait to start eradicating preconceived, archetypal notions about women�۪s duties. I want to show that you can do both effectively.

Would you ever consider leaving aside your media career to pursue politics full time?
I do not see why one should leave one to fulfill the other. There are plenty of politicians out there who have other jobs and roles. As long as there isn�۪t a conflict of interest for anyone or any of the parties involved, why should one have to leave anything?

You’ve met some of the biggest celebrities, which one has been the most memorable meet whilst your work with ZEE?
I have been truly blessed to meet some amazing people over the last year from, Kumar Sanu, Satinder Sartaj, Madhoo, to Raageshwari, Nina Manuel, Paresh Rawal, Gurinder Chadda, Jay Sean, Preeya Khalidas, the legendary Fauja Singh, the highly inspirational Jaswinder Sanghera and even game changer Kulveer Ranger. Each has bought something to the table in relation to inspiration, work, family and life.

But I have to admit, the one person who really stood out for me would be Nana Patekar – an actor who came to the studio in a horrible mood ��� he was utterly furious about something and was calmed down to such a profound level. After doing the televised interview, he actually said that he would like to sit down and talk to me one to one, as a daughter, and if anyone wished to turn the cameras on or off, that was their choice.

It turned out to be a wonderful hour long special that everyone enjoyed. After the interview, he called me to invite me to attend the screening of his film Hemalkasa, which was a wonderful gesture. That memory will always stick with me!

Any final messages?
Around 5% of the UK population is South Asian. Over 50% are Women. Yet out of 650 MPs, only 148 are women and only 6 of those 148 are Asian women. Britain is a beautifully diverse country, we are a representative democracy, but the lack of diversity in Westminster is damning. I think it�۪s time to see some new and different faces in Parliament that reflect our society as it is.

I would urge everyone to look around them at what�۪s happening in the world because I think it�۪s important for everyone to have a say in order to shape their future. Involvement in politics is not limited to becoming an MP ��� one vote can make all the difference! Voting is the only way you can see a change in the way the country is run, and have a part in ensuring the change is according to what you want.

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