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Still Game star Sanjeev Kohli tells fans to get hankies ready for final episode

Daily Record logoDaily Record 14/08/2018 Paul English
a group of people standing in front of a store © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited

Still Game star Sanjeev Kohli has warned fans of the hit BBC comedy to get their hankies ready for the show’s grand finale.

The Glasgow actor, best known as shopkeeper Navid Harrid, started filming the final series of shenanigans – written by stars Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill – in Craiglang last week.

Like all the Still Game cast, he’s staying tight-lipped about how it will end but he did say: “The last episode really is properly emotional. I think there will be helplines set up for viewers.

“To be honest, it hasn’t really sunk in yet that this is the final series.

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Game over for comedy duo but it's Still a fans favourite

“We’ve invested 16 years of our lives in this, and even when it stopped for a few years, it never really went away. I was still being called Navid by folk in shops. It was still in the public consciousness. It felt like it was always there and I think it probably always will.

“I think people will watch Still Game over and over again, the way I used to watch The Young Ones and Kenny Everett.”

A glance through social media on the week of the show’s conclusion being announced revealed a mixed response. There were some sad to see it go and others who consider the timing is right.

Sanjeev said: “Fair play to Ford and Greg. I still think there are places they could go with Still Game but they’ve said they want to quit while they’re ahead. They don’t want to tarnish it so good on them.”

While there are tears ahead for Still Game’s poignant finale, Sanjeev hopes his days of making wisecracks from behind the till are far from over.

Before walking away from Osprey Heights later this year, the 46-year-old will launch series eight of another Scottish comedy in which he plays a different Scots-Asian shopkeeper.

Fags, Mags and Bags – which Sanjeev writes with Donald Mcleary – returns today on BBC Radio 4.

The series has been a long-running hit and has built a loyal following despite never making the leap to television.

a person standing in front of a store © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited

Still Game: Last orders for hit show as filming starts on final series

He said: “I don’t think Still Game has influenced my approach to writing Fags, Mags and Bags.

“In a lot of ways, doing Still Game actually helped me see what we shouldn’t make. We make it as different as possible, otherwise people would just think, ‘He’s ripping off that show he’s in on the telly’. As brilliant as Still Game is, I don’t want to do that.

“I get really irritated when people call it a spin-off from Still Game. It’s totally different. For one thing, the dialogue is much more dense and verbose.

“The long and the short of it is I’m playing two shopkeepers in two Scottish shops. I need to make them different.

“I play a character called Ramesh on radio, who is more English-Asian than Scottish-Asian, so I base his accent on a friend of my dad’s in north London.

“Donnie and I have been writing stuff together for more than 20 years. I call him my writing wife.

“I’ve never written anything better than Fags, Mags and Bags because I have Donnie with me, and he’s the funniest person I’ve ever met.”

The series sees Susheel Kumar and Omar Raza reprise their roles as Ramesh’s sons Alok & Sanjay, along with Scot Squad favourite Julie Wilson Nimmo and River City’s Tom Urie.

Moray Hunter, Mina Anwar and Lorraine McIntosh also appear. The show, produced by the Comedy Unit, has a slew of celebrity fans including comedians Ed Byrne and Kevin Eldon, and Chris Addison, director of US hit comedy Veep.

Despite numerous radio industry award nominations and success at the prestigious Writers Guild Award in 2008 it hasn’t been taken up by TV.

Sanj said: “As the years go on, I think it’s not going to happen but we’ve talked about doing a live show as we have a fan base. We might not be playing the Hydro like Still Game but I’d love to take it to smaller theatres like Oran Mor.”

Most of the series for Still Game are filmed at BBC Scotland’s Dumbarton studios, home to Sanj’s other regular telly gig – playing AJ in River City.

Both programmes resumed filming last week, presenting him with the challenge of having to be two characters in a day.

He said: “I’ve noticed from the filming schedules there’s a day when I’m in for both. That’ll be fun. You hear Bollywood stories about actors doing three films in one day. If that happens, it’ll be fine. AJ is a version of myself. But once I get into Navid’s make-up – that beard, the wig and the belly – then you can’t help but inhabit that character. But being in employment at all is amazing. And to be able to do two jobs at once is great.”

There is a glimmer of hope for fans of Still Game, according to Sanj.

The series was recommissioned for TV in 2016 off the back of an incredible return to the stage, where the show started at the Edinburgh Fringe 21 years ago.

Their run at the SSE Hydro in 2014 saw them sell out 21 shows at the 12,000-capacity arena. And they returned to the venue in 2017.

So, will fans have one last chance to see Jack, Victor, Navid, Winston, Isa, Boabby and Tam under the big tin roof on Clydeside one last time?

Sanj said: “There might still be an appetite for that. I’d think it could be a distinct possibility.”

● Series eight of Fags, Mags and Bags begins on BBC Radio 4 today at 11.30am. It is also on the BBC’s iPlayer.

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