Twenty years after her breakout role as a young female footballer in Bend It Like Beckham, Parminder Nagra is back on our screens in a role that also deals with identity – as a police officer battling prejudice in the crime thriller DI Ray, new and exclusive to BritBox.
Line of Duty actress Maya Sondhi reunites with series creator Jed Mercurio on this fresh, relevant and thought-provoking new four-part drama. Premiering on BritBox South Africa on 9 June 2022, it’s a highly personal screenwriting outing for Sondhi that tracks a compelling murder investigation in Birmingham’s murky underworld while exploring the emotive subject of racism in the workplace.
Nagra, who also starred in ER and The Blacklist, plays DI Rachita Ray, a Birmingham police officer who takes on a case that forces her to confront a lifelong personal conflict between her British identity and her South Asian heritage.
DI Ray’s hopes of a promotion to the murder squad fall on deaf ears until she foils an attempted stabbing while off duty. It seems her career dreams are coming true when she’s asked to join a murder investigation – until it’s revealed that she’s been assigned to a “culturally specific homicide” purely because of her ethnicity.
Dogged by accusations of tokenism and enduring repeated instances of everyday racism from her colleagues, DI Ray sticks to the case, delving deep into the dangerous world of organised crime to prove she can do the job. But in the process, she realises that she’s been burying a personal identity crisis that inevitably bubbles to the surface.
Writer and series creator Sondhi (PC Maneet Bindra in Line of Duty, also available on BritBox), says: “This is a project which is deeply personal for me as a British Asian Brummie woman. It’s only in the past 10 years or so I’ve really been able to truly embrace my heritage. So much of this show is my story and in telling it honestly, I hope others from all different backgrounds will relate.”
DI Ray asks difficult but pertinent questions about what it’s like to be British but feel “other” in your own country, facing prejudice at almost every turn.
Sondhi explains: “Sometimes it’s to do with gender, not just race – a lot of people experience everyday sexism, but we’re so used to it and just get on with it. Things like someone in a shop just assuming that you work there, which happens all the time to women of colour. If I stand still in a restaurant long enough, eventually someone will ask me about the specials!” She likens her trailblazing female lead to “my heroine, my Helen Mirren, my Prime Suspect”.
Adds Nagra: “Rachita’s thing is that she’s part of a whole generation of people born and brought up in the UK who see themselves as British. I’m British, but you still have those stumbling blocks. With Rachita, she also has to work twice as hard to be recognised for the work she does.”
RadioTimes describes DI Ray as having “plenty of cliffhangers, twists and a rising body count to keep viewers glued to their armchairs”.
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