Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

India jokes on us, says Top Gear

Top Gear presenters James May, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson were criticised over a show set in India

Top Gear bosses have rejected claims that the show's India special was insulting - and said it was a "warts and all" portrayal of the country.

The Christmas edition led to Indian diplomats making a complaint to the BBC about what they regarded as a "disgusting" episode.

But programme chiefs have now responded for the first time to say the show did not display a "hostile or superior attitude". And they said jokes were at the expense of presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond rather than the Indian people.

The 90-minute India special showed Clarkson talking to locals while dressed in his boxer shorts, using a trouser press. It included a car fitted with a toilet in the boot which Clarkson said was "perfect for India because everyone who comes here gets the trots".

The presenters also placed banners on trains declaring "British IT is good for your company" and "Eat English muffins" which were later torn to reveal rude messages.

The tone of the programme led to viewer complaints and prompted the Indian High Commission in London to write to the BBC to protest. Raja Sekhar from the Commission said the letter was sent to show "strong disappointment" after he claimed the show "ran down the whole society, culture and people".

But responding to the controversy for the first time Top Gear bosses said the road trip across India was "filled with incidents but none of them were an insult to the Indian people or the culture of the country".

In a statement on the BBC's complaints website, they said: "Our film showed the charm, the beauty, the wealth, the poverty and the idiosyncrasies of India but there's a vast difference between showing a country, warts and all, and insulting it.

"It's simply not the case that we displayed a hostile or superior attitude to our hosts and that's very clear from the way the presenters can be seen to interact with them along the way."

They added: "We genuinely loved our time in India and if there were any jokes to be had they were, as ever, reflected back on the presenters rather than the Indian people."

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