Dalip Tahil blames envy for immigration row

By Prasun Sonwalkar, IANS
9/2/2004 12:00:00 AM
Indian actor Dalip Tahil, who became popular in Britain for his role in the BBC soap "EastEnders", has blamed envy from British Asian actors for his being refused a work permit.

Tahil, who has been embroiled in an immigration wrangle that could lead to his deportation, has blamed poor legal advice and opposition from British Asian actors for his predicament.

He is upset about the actors' union, Equity, opposing his application for a work permit and said he wants to restore his credibility after being branded an illegal worker by the media.

"The Asian community has by and large supported me, and the majority of British Asian actors have been totally supportive. But I feel I wasn't given the support I would have expected from a union, a fraternity that I feel is my own. That was very disappointing," Tahil said.

"I would like to tell my supporters and well wishers that I have been caught in circumstances not of my making," he told the Guardian.

"I haven't come here to try to cheat the state. I'm here to contribute in any way I can. I have rented my own flat and I have never claimed benefits."

Tahil came to Britain in 2002 to perform in the hit musical "Bombay Dreams". He was then picked by the producers of "EastEnders" to play Dan Ferreira, the head of a new Indian family introduced in the soap last year.

But Equity complained that his work permit was not in order. When the BBC applied to have it regularised, the union said the corporation had not done enough to see whether there were Asian actors already in Britain who could do the job.

The BBC was forced to drop him from the soap, causing chaos as storylines were hastily rewritten.

Equity said it is obliged to protect the interests of its members, and there were a "multitude" of British Asian actors who could have played the part.

A spokesman said: "This is not about Dalip Tahil's talents as an actor. Part of our job is to maximise the opportunities for our members."

Tahil faces deportation unless he can prove that his immigration status is the result of poor advice by his former solicitor, who is now the subject of a complaint to the Law Society.

The actor has engaged a new firm of lawyers and is hoping that the result of a forthcoming court hearing will allow him to resume his career in Britain.

Tahil came to prominence after "EastEnders" decided it wanted to introduce an Indian family, feeling that the soap did not accurately reflect multicultural London.

But the storyline was thrown into confusion when he was forced to leave, and his absence has been explained by increasingly far-fetched theories.

Tahil is no longer under contract to the BBC. A spokeswoman for "EastEnders" said there were "no plans at present" to write him back in.