DI Ray is the new crime drama by Jed Mercurio

Monday: DI Ray - (ITV, 9pm)
DI Rachita Ray, PS Tony Khatri and DS Clive BottomleyDI Rachita Ray, PS Tony Khatri and DS Clive Bottomley
DI Rachita Ray, PS Tony Khatri and DS Clive Bottomley

Twenty years ago, a little British film was released which took the world by storm and launched the careers of its two young female stars.

Bend It Like Beckham continues to have an impact thanks to its empowering central characters: female footballer Jules and her friend Jess, a British Indian 18-year-old initially forbidden to play football by her protective parents. Keira Knightley played Jules and has gone on to become an Oscar-nominated film star.

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Meanwhile, Parminder Nagra, aka Jess, has concentrated largely on TV projects in the US, appearing in the likes of ER, Alcatraz and Agents of SHIELD. In 2017 she returned to the UK to appear in Sky’s surreal show Fortitude, and now she’s back again in the latest series from Jed Mercurio’s production company HTM Television.

The firm has already enjoyed success this year with Trigger Point, and so big things are also expected of DI Ray, a four-part crime drama being broadcast on consecutive evenings.

It’s the brainchild of Maya Sondhi, who played PC Maneet Bindra in three series of Line of Duty, and has previously written scripts for The Kumars at No 42, EastEnders, Mount Pleasant and Ackley Bridge.

Nagra takes the title role of DI Rachita Ray, a Leicester-born police officer based in Birmingham.

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We’ll follow her efforts to solve a case that forces her to confront the conflict between her British identity and her South Asian heritage. It comes about after she finally earns a much-longed for promotion.

“This is a project which is deeply personal for me as a British Asian Brummie woman,” says Sondhi. “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.”

Unfortunately, Ray’s first case – described as a ‘culturally specific homicide’ – makes her wonder if her new role is a token appointment, one to tick boxes due to her ethnicity rather than her ability. Nevertheless, always the professional, she throws herself into the investigation, determined not only to find the killer but prove her worth to her colleagues.

But it’s far from an open-and-closed matter, and involves delving into the dangerous world of organised crime. Skills-wise, she’s more than capable, but some of her colleagues hold biases that don’t make it easy, while Ray’s own battles with her personal identity threaten to cause problems.

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“Everyone at HTM Television is thrilled to be collaborating with writer Maya Sondhi, director Alex Pillai and star Parminder Nagra on such a thought-provoking series,” adds Mercurio. “DI Ray is first and foremost a thriller, while Maya’s writing poses complex and timely questions about the nature of personal ethnic identity.”

“Maya’s script is brilliant,” agrees Polly Hill, ITV’s head of drama. “It’s funny, relevant and introduces the fabulous DI Ray, played by the equally fabulous Parminder Nagra. It’s always hard to find a fresh detective, but it feels we have with Rachita Ray, in a thriller that will keep the audience captivated till the end.”

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