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It Ain't Half Hot Mum

It Ain't Half Hot Mum was a British sitcom about the adventures of a Royal Artillery Concert Party, broadcast between 1974 and 1981, and written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, the creators of Dad's Army. It was set in British India and Burma, towards the end of the Second World War.

Situation

The first four series of It Ain't Half Hot Mum were set at the Royal Artillery Depot Deolali, a place where British soldiers stayed before being posted up the jungle. The Royal Artillery Concert Party, consisting of several soldiers who would rather sing, dance and dress up as women than fight, are stationed permanently in Deolali to keep the troops entertained. In the first episode of the fifth series, the concert party are posted up the jungle, and from then on It Ain't Half Hot Mum is set in Tin Min, Burma close to the front line.

The scenario of the series is similar to the Peter Nichols play and film Privates on Parade. Deolali is pronounced "doolally"; this is widely believed to be a pun on the term for insanity, but it is in fact a real place and actually the source of the term.

Some people have perceived the casting of the European-seeming actor Michael Bates, as the Indian bearer, Rangi Ram, as an example of the crude racial characterisation known as blackface. This may have resulted in the programme being repeated infrequently on British television. In fact the Anglo-Indian Bates was born in India, and spoke Hindi before learning English. Strange as it may seem now, in 1970s Britain he was the only experienced actor available who was both fluent in several Indian languages and familiar with Indian culture. His make up, costume and characterisation can be interpreted as comic-realism rather than crude stereotyping.

Characters

Commanding Officers

Colonel Reynolds is the leader of the concert party and enjoys their shows immensely. He thinks army life in India is very hard, while all he does is sit around sipping pink gin and dining with the elite. He is having an affair with Daphne Waddilove-Evans, whose husband, Major Waddilove-Evans, has left for the Punjab. He is the stereotypical British Army Officer, very stiff upper lip and prim and proper. Captain Ashwood's utter stupidity does occasionally infuriate him, but he is effectively good-natured and tries to avoid leaving the easy life he has at any cost.

Captain Ashwood is an even bigger fan of the concert party than Colonel Reynolds, especially when they dress up as girls. He is not very bright, and often unknowingly ruins other people's plans, especially the Sergeant Major's. He occasionally writes skits for the concert party, which they reluctantly accept, as they are, on the whole, absolutely awful. He has absolutely no military bearing in him, which makes it very easy for the Sergeant Major and the others to manipulate him into using his authority to achieve their own ends.

The Sergeant Major is the only real, professional soldier among the concert party and its officers. He is somewhat bigoted in his views, making every effort to bully the Indian camp staff and remind everyone of British supremacy in India. He seems to have only one goal in life, namely to get his soldiers posted up the jungle as fast as he can. He is disgusted by the fact that his soldiers prance about on the stage wearing dresses and make-up all the time, and frequently calls them a "bunch of poofs". He dislikes all members of the concert party equally, but has a particular loathing for Gunner "Lah-De-Dah" Graham, owing to his university education, although Williams will praise Graham for it if it serves his purposes.

The Concert Party

'Solly' is a Jewish showbizz man who always plays the male leads in the concert party's shows and is also the party's producer. He is a very intelligent individual and often has some sort of devious plot to avoid being posted or getting one over on the Sergeant Major. He left at the end of Series 2 when he was demobbed back to Britain.

'Gloria' Beaumont is a very effeminate person who cannot handle the violence, heat and mosquitoes of army life in India too well. He considers himself an artiste, and doesn't believe he should be in the Army, often trying to emphasize his show-business angle and ignore the "soldier" parts of his job. He has a passion for showbusiness and always dresses up as famous filmstars during the concert party shows, especially as Ginger Rogers.

'Lofty' is a soldier whose appearance can be summarized by means of quoting the Sergeant Major: "Is it a mushroom? No. Is it a soldier? No. It's Gunner Sugden." Lofty is the tiny, rotund lead singer of the concert party usually seen in an old-fashioned pith helmet, and has an amazing tenor voice which even the Sergeant Major cannot resist when he sings. Unfortunately, he is always picked out by the Sergeant Major as a "volunteer" when there is a particularly nasty or dangerous task to be carried out.

'Parky' is the youngest member of the concert party and has tried everything to become part of them, including being a ventriloquist, comedian, and singer, although he is very clumsy and never does anything right. The Sergeant Major has reason to believe that Parkins is his son, which is why he treats him much better than he treats the others, and keeps telling him he has "a fine pair of shoulders", and becomes very selective about Parkins' achievement - praising him when he does something right and ignoring when Parkins makes huge blunders. An example of such a situation comes when Parkins is appointed as Battery clerk - since he has no exploitable talent for the concert party - and, having misunderstood an order from the Sergeant-Major, proceeds to have the Officer's Mess demolished. (Sergeant - Major Williams had told him to "remove the mess by the Officer's lines", referring to a pile of old beds that were to be disgarded.) Parkins references the show's title in the first ever episode when he signs off a letter to his mother with the words "I've been in India now two weeks, and it ain't half hot, Mum."

Gunner Graham is the concert party's pianist. His appearance - bald and bespectacled - marks him out as a stereotypical boffin. He has a university degree in English literature and is very smart, speaking with a very upper class accent, which is why the Sergeant Major always mockingly repeats what he says. Graham often has difficult and ingenious plans to solve the concert party's problems, but these plans never seem to work and often result in his saying "oh well, bang goes that theory". The others (even the Sergeant Major and the Officers) often rely on his intelligence to get them out of awkward situations.

'Atlas' Mackintosh does the strong man act in the show, which involves tearing telephone directories in half. He is rather short-tempered, especially when Beaumont calls him a "great, big, butch, hairy haggis". He is very masculine, and is a bit of a contradiction to what Beaumont thinks is right for the concert party. Nevertheless, Mackintosh always tries his best and copes with what is given to him.

'Nobby' Clark does a whistling act in the show, and can do excellent bird impersonation. He is not particularly clever, and often makes nonsense comments or observations about situations they find themselves in.

'Nosher' Evans does a paper tearing act. He is always eating something (and once stayed on punishment in the Canteen four hours after he was relieved as he was enjoying himself) resulting in him spraying the contents of his mouth all around him when he speaks.

Natives

Rangi Ram is the concert party's native bearer, is very proud to be of service to the army. He feels so connected to them that he often talks about "we British". The Sergeant Major shouts at him more than at anyone else, but Rangi is also the one he confides in when he wants to talk about problems. Rangi often provides the audience with an "old Hindu proverb" at the end of the episode, such as "There is an old Hindu proverb which say that if you see two eyes looking at you in the dark, it is not always a Tiger. It might be two one-eyed Tigers!". He is a particularly devious individual, who can often manipulate the situation for his own ends (usually money), and although often displays that he considers himself British, will show very divided loyalty when his Indian aspect is under threat - when asked to burn the Indian flag by the Sergeant Major, he refused.

Muhammed the char wallah walks around the camp all day, selling tea from his kettle. We can also hear him sing the musical interruptions between the scenes, which are mostly popular American hits, accompanied by a sitar. At the end of the credits he starts to sing "Land of hope and Glory" only to be interrupted by the Sergeant-major shouting "SHUTUPPP!!!". He became the bearer when Rangi Ram left the series (Michael Bates died after Series 6).

Rumzan the punkah wallah always sits outside the officers' quarters, pulling a string that is attached to a large fan indoors. He comments on everything in Urdu, and always adds a few words in English at the end. Rangi often tells him to "sit up straight while you are punkah-ing" and not to "be such Clever Dickie". He is far more intelligent than the others give him credit, and much of what he observes early on is often borne out in the end, but no-one notices.

  • Ah Syn, the Chinese cook (Andy Ho)

The Chinese Cook he appears in Series 7 after the punka wallah left.

Series and Episodes

DVD releases

Series 1 to 6 have been released on DVD region code 2 by the BBC and Cinema Club. The first five seasons have also been released in region 4. The last two seasons remain unreleased in any region.

DVD Code Date of release (R2) Date of release (R4)
The Complete Series 1 CCTV 30213 5th September 2005 2nd March 2006
The Complete Series 2 CCTV 30227 10th October 2005 5th October 2006
The Complete Series 3 CCTV 30269 13th February 2006 7th March 2007
The Complete Series 4 CCTV 30295 1st May 2006 5th September 2007
The Complete Series 5 CCTV 30328 31st July 2006 5th March 2008
The Complete Series 6 BBCDVD 2645 9th June 2008 4th September 2008
The Complete Series 7 TBA TBA
The Complete Series 8 TBA TBA
The Series 1 - Series 4 Boxset CCTV 30532 30th October 2006 TBA
The Series 5 - Series 8 Boxset TBA TBA
The Complete Boxset (All 8 Series) TBA TBA

Songs

Because It Ain't Half Hot Mum was a sitcom about a concert party, many old music hall, musical and traditional songs were performed by the actors, including:

Urdu Glossary

Urdu English
aana to come
achchha good, okay
anna Indian coin, one sixteenth of a rupee
bahot many
chai tea
chapaati bread
charpai bed
chatti earthen pot
chitty note
dhobi laundry
dhoti loincloth
garam warm
idhar here
idhar aa'o! come here!
jaana to go
jaa'o! go!
jaldi quickly
kharaab bad
maloom clear
paagal pani alcohol ('mad water')
pani water
pankhaa fan
pyaalah bowl
rupee Indian coin
salaam hello
thand cold
theek hay okay
wallah -man (suffix)

References

External links

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