Have you been watching ITV’s new series The Good Karma Hospital? We belatedly caught up with the first episode (one of six) – and didn’t completely hate it!
It’s the story of Ruby Walker, a British Asian junior doctor (played by Amrita Acharia, of Game of Thrones fame), who post break-up, heads to India “to get away from everything“. She thinks she’s going to work in a flashy new clinic in Kerala but ends up in an under-resourced public hospital. The usual trials and tribulations follow – winning over sceptical colleagues, overcoming her own confidence issues, and coming to terms with the inevitable failures.
The clichés (all of them, crammed into the first 10 minutes) are unbearable, the soundtrack is HUGELY annoying, and some of the acting’s a bit dodge. All of the storylines – even one about son preference and female foeticide – are wrapped up quickly and neatly.
But Sri Lanka, as Kerala, looks beautiful, and sunny, and vital. And Dr Varma (played by James Floyd), as the brooding Indian doctor unimpressed by Walker’s presence or abilities as a doctor, is suitably dishy.
There are other – important – reasons that the show is worth a watch. The two main characters are female, and the lead protagonist is shown to be at least part South Asian (Acharia is half Nepalese, half Ukrainian). There are examples of Indians showing compassion towards, and even saving, English characters. And the intrepid young doctor has to contend with a distinct lack of hero worship. The formidable Dr Lydia Fonseca, played excellently by Amanda Foreman, has the best lines. She introduces the newly arrived Ruby Walker as “another half-trained British doctor to practise on Indian people“, later telling her that her “...my patients are not dinner party stories.” On hearing that it was a break-up that drove Walker’s move to India, she tells her that that is “neither interesting or original“. I long for a show where such lines are uttered by Indian characters (maybe Dr Varma is winding up to that), and the white saviour narrative is rejected wholesale. Until then, baby steps…
Catch Episode 3 of the ‘The Good Karma Hospital’ on ITV on Sundays, 9pm. More information, and catch-up on Episodes 1 and 2 is here.
Actually you know that thing about the soundtrack? Please all stand for the exceptional closing track. Good work Tiger Productions!
By Seema Khan.
Posted on 13 February 2017