Meet the new doctors on call

2017-07-03 10:36

Cape Town – There's a new group of doctors on call Mondays on BBC Brit (DStv 120).

The Good Karma Hospital follows the lives and loves of a team of hard working medics as they travel the red dirt roads to patients staying in five-star beach resorts or inland – through lush green jungles – to help local villagers. 

Back at the hospital, literally any story can walk through the door – and often it does. Life affirming and optimistic, this contemporary series mixes the heart-breaking with the humorous.

See a promo here:

James Floyd plays Dr Gabriel Varma a tricky man to please. Intense and focused, Gabriel doesn’t suffer fools and can be highly critical. He sat down for a quick Q&A about his role and the series. 

How would you describe the character of Dr Gabriel Varma?

From his point of view, Gabriel is a misunderstood, young, very skilled doctor in Lydia Fonesca’s hospital. He’s unusually young for someone in his position and is unusually experienced in terms of life. Gabriel has gone through quite a bit and the audience learn about his past as the series goes on. I think that’s why he’s someone who has lots of emotion bubbling under the surface. He keeps a lid on those emotions by being incredibly professional in his job, maybe too much. That’s his strength and his weakness.

How is The Good Karma Hospital unique as a medical drama?

Dan Sefton has focused on the relationship side of the drama, inside and outside the hospital. With this series, we have the unique setting of rural South India and this unusual setting of a struggling cottage hospital. For me, one of the most important things about this drama is the setting. South India is like a character in the series and certainly the hospital is also. A medical drama in this context is something the audience has never quite seen before and as the series progresses I think the uniqueness of the characters and the narrative will shine through. Working with the cast and the directors we would go into a scene and try to forget that we were in a medical drama and concentrate on the character’s complications and aim to create something the audience would not expect from a medical drama.

Did you do any specific research in preparation for the role of Dr Gabriel Varma?

I spoke to a lot of doctors who work in southern India, which was very informative. The main point of difference was that you can’t be too emotional in this culture. Indian culture is very complicated and varied but generally in India you can’t have the same approach that a doctor in the NHS would have. There is a cultural difference. One of the most interesting things a lot of these doctors said to me was that often working in medicine in India your mind is quite split and you have to compartmentalise. You have to deal with different languages, cultures, nationalities and religions. Each culture and subculture you deal with might have different attitudes towards, for example, gender or children and you may not always agree with those things. There are a lot of spinning plates. When speaking to a lot of the doctors, they said it feels like they are suppressing a lot of emotions within. It’s as if you have to bite your tongue, and it can get to a point where your tongue is bleeding, but you have to try not to show anyone.

How would you describe the relationship between Ruby and Gabriel and what is the dynamic between the two characters?

They are two polar opposites especially in terms of experience. Ruby is a young doctor from the West, in essence a British Asian who knows very little about her Asian culture. In contrast, my character Gabriel is very much an old soul in a young man’s body. Many Indian doctors really look down on certain western medical practice, which is something that Gabriel does, he has quite a snobby view of it and it’s not an accurate view. He looks at most western doctors, especially young ones like Ruby as opportunists and careerists and perhaps harshly so. He’s convinced she’s in deep water and she’s going to drown so why tolerate her there in the first place. He feels he’s grown up in deep water because he’s worked in a much tougher environment than she has.

Do you think owning a motorbike, hints of a cooler side to Gabriel that we’re going to see later down the line?

I was very fortunate that I learnt how to ride a motorbike before I came out here. Gabriel riding his motorbike is symbolic of many things, I hope in subtle ways. It isn’t something that has been written in because it’s cool, it’s symbolic of how isolated he can be. Gabriel doesn’t like spending too much time with others. It also really helped me to get into the character, Gabriel is very different to me and I often find when you play a contrasting character to yourself you have different routes into that. Specifically riding the Enfield Bullet which has a particular character to it. It’s an old classic and it says a lot about Gabriel. He finishes a tough week of saving lives in a hospital and then gets on his bike and drives 20 kilometres into the mountains. I did that myself which helped me to understand the psychology behind people in the same situation as him. It’s been so much fun and I love learning new skills. I’ve been driving and riding a bicycle my whole life but I’ve never had the guts to get on a motorcycle and now I’m just hooked.

Can you tell us a bit about Gabriel’s motorbike stunt sequence?

There’s an amazing sequence where my character falls off his motorbike. Crazy old me would have loved to have done the stunt but thank god I didn’t because I’d probably be dead. There were these incredible stunt guys from Mumbai who do a lot of Bollywood films, who are some of the best stunt men in the region and the world. This specific scene was done in one take, which was just unbelievable.

How would you describe The Good Karma Hospital and what do you think audiences will be attracted to?

For me, The Good Karma Hospital is very much about western and Indian doctors coming together and colliding at an overworked college hospital in southern, rural India. It’s a very unique spin on the West meets East storytelling. Like a lot of good genre pieces, it’s doing something different to what you’ve seen before. It’s about what it’s really like to be someone who saves lives day and night, in the context of South India and you don’t see that frequently in British TV and film. We are used to seeing Western doctors in Western hospitals. This is about an Indian hospital in an area where a lot of dramatic and tragic things occur. It doesn’t sugar coat the reality and harshness of living in this part of the world.

The six episode series kicks off on Monday, 3 July at 20:00 on BBC First (DStv 120)

(Photos suppled: BBC)

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