Friday, February 16, 2007

Robin Hood. Spotlight on the cast 7: Anjali Jay

Djaq was neither the first Saracen outlaw to feature in a Robin Hood series, nor was she the first girl outlaw. In that respect those critics who derided her role as being motivated by a need for political correctness were quite wrong.The equality of "girls and boys" was explored several times in the 1950s via Patricia Driscoll's performance as the second actress to play the part of Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Occasional stories were also given over to the equality theme, one in particular featuring a very young and later to be acclaimed award winning actress Billie Whitelaw. But perhaps of greater significance was Judi Trott in 1984's Robin of Sherwood. Trott's version of Maid Marian was officially outlawed by the Sheriff of Nottingham, actually married Robin Hood in a simple Pagan ceremony, and then lived amongst the outlaws in Sherwood Forest.
The concept of including a Saracen outlaw among Robin's Merry Men is also nothing new and was one of many significant aspects of Robin of Sherwood. Mark Ryan played the part of Nasir, a mercenary who was originally meant to kill Robin but, having witnessed his character and tested his skill in a duel, decided of his own volition to join him. Nasir was a man of very few (if any) words, and his character soon gained a huge loyal following. In 1991 Hollywood incorporated several ideas from Robin of Sherwood into Robin Prince of Thieves, such as an angry Will Scarlet and a Saracen outlaw. This time that outlaw was called Azeem, played by the distinguished actor Morgan Freeman who, in spite of his ability, never really challenged Mark Ryan's version. However, "Prince of Thieves" did explore the clash between Azeem's faith system and that of a very cantankerous Friar Tuck in a most entertaining way. (One of the better aspects of the movie).
And it didn't end there. The third "black" outlaw was the oft forgotten Kemal, played by real life martial arts competitor Hakim Alston. In the late 1990's television series the "New Adventures of Robin Hood", Kemal was a black mercenary who joined Robin Hood for the second series. I wish I could tell you more, but I've never seen the series, nor can I seem to obtain any tapes of it. (Much to my regret!) However, I think the point has been made that the inclusion of a "black", Saracen, or Arabic outlaw has probably been the most important and popular innovation to the whole legend during the 20th century. When the Jonas Armstrong version of Robin Hood began in 2006 such a character was absent. Thankfully she arrived in episode 5 when Robin Hood rescued Djaq (Anjali Jay), from a wagon bound for Gisborne's mines and a life of slavery.
Djaq is the most educated of the outlaws, and does not share their Saxon fears and superstitions about sorcerers (episode 10), or Turk flu (episode 5). She also has knowledge of the "black powder" (episode 9) prior to its arrival in Nottinghamshire, and exhibits an awareness of basic medical procedures in advance of those around her. (The scene in episode 12 when she attempts to revive Marian is at one and the same time thrilling, heartbreaking, and hilarious). There are occasions when Djaq wonders if Robin values her less because she is a girl, such as episode 8 when his urge to kill Gisborne seems more important than her safety. But in the end, Djaq serves as a symbol of Robin Hood's redemption from whatever actions he may have undertook in the war, and he clearly values her friendship and respects her cultural background. For example, when the outlaws vote to throw the formula for the "black powder" into the fire, he sees Djaq retrieve it but doesn't get angry. The outlaws were fearful and superstitious about the powder and its consequences. But Robin had been in agreement with Djaq that knowledge should be preserved and encouraged, and is pleased to see her save the book because he knows she will not abuse it.
Anjali Jay has excelled in the role of Djaq. Those that level accusations of "political correctness" should think again. Where a character can serve as a positive role model, illustrating the fact that the Saracens were neither savage, backward, nor heathens, then I call that a worthwhile education. She has inherited the role first popularised by the great Mark Ryan, combined it with aspects of Judi Trott's girl outlaw, and made it her own. I can't wait to see what a new Friar Tuck will make of her...

Next week: Joe Armstrong.

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18 Comments:

Blogger Emily said...

No comments yet for the Djaq girl? I really like Djaq, personally, and she has grown on me. I have seen her character develop a little - even for a brand new character in Sherwood. She's gone from being insecure about her place in the band of outlaws as a girl, to comfortably being "one of the lads," and knowing her worth.
She is a girl/woman of incredible skill and she really does save Marian's life.
She really is quite heroic. Am I alone in wondering what her background is and how she came to disguise herself as a boy?
What DOES she think of Will? Does Will even like her that way anymore?
Does she have any desire to go back to her homeland or is she setting to stay in England?
I am sure Djaq must have some secrets that should come out...
I am glad we had Djaq this past season and I am looking forward to seeing her this next season too!

5:19 AM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Emily,

(See also Will Scarlet comment).

Anjali Ray now starring in Blind Dating.

http://www.aceshowbiz.com/movie/blind_dating/

I think Djaq would want to go back to her homeland and continue to serve her people there by helping bring about an understanding between east and west. She has all the qualifications to do that now.

Perhaps her need to disguise herself as a boy came from her own belief system discouraging girls from fighting etc?

I don't really think she evebn notices Will. She's certainly shown no interest in the men at all.... Not that I'm suggesting she fancies Marian either.... I actually think Much would be her type. They balance each other very well.

I think Anjali Jay is great. No doubt her blossoming career will take her away from the series at some point, but she'll be sorely missed.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous mm said...

does any body know how many series there are likely to be or does nobody know yet? robin hood? do you know? luvin da hoodster lolz

2:38 PM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi MM, (Marian?)

I don't think anyone can say for sure, but I think they'll have problems going to a third series because of the following:

1. It's a young cast with the world ahead of them. Anjali Jay already has a movie out, and surely they'll all be looking to their future careers.

2. Experienced actors like Keith Allen and Richard Armitage in particular are always getting good offers of work, and won't want to end up type cast in one programme.

3. There is a new movie on the way, starring Russell Crowe as a "good" Sheriff of Nottingham. Now that slant on things, added to Hollywood's powers in marketing, is likely to capture public imagination and provide stiff competition for their attention. People have their own concept of who the "best Robin Hood" is, a bit like Dr Who; the one you first see or "grow up with", soon becomes your all time favourite. A new movie might quickly become regarded as the "best" Robin.

I'd LOVE to see a third AND fourth series. Richard Greene managed it in the 1950's, but there's a LOT more competition out there now.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous mm said...

thanks very much robin a great help. i cant get enough of it and even if other people do other productions of robin hood i will still think of this one as the best how about you ? does this one hav a lot of competition with the others? i cant remember the other ones but even if it is on tv sometime i wont watch it. i prefer to stick to one version loadsa love mm

2:59 PM  
Blogger robin hood said...

MM,

I LOVE this series. But if I'm totally honest, I still prefer the Robin of Sherwood one better. I think that had the best Gisbourne, and more mystique. However, I think Lucy Griffiths as Maid Marian is better than Judi Trott.

I guess my all time favourite Robin hood show would be a mix and match from ALL of them!

7:30 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Well, I think perhaps it is difficult to compare. This is a Robin Hood for a new generation - not that the others aren't good, but I myself have not had the opportunity to see Robin of Sherwood myself.
I knew Robin Hood mostly as a child from Disney's animated Robin Hood (ooo de lally), and Prince of Thieves etc.
Disney's is classic in it's own way (you can't really compare it to non animated Robin Hoods) and I don't think Prince of Thieves compares to this Robin Hood. I think Jonas is much better than Kevin Costner as Robin.

2:40 AM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Emily,

I don't rate Kevin Costner at all as Robin. The best things about Prince of Thieves are the Sheriff of Nottingham (excellent) and Friar Tuck.

You know what? I've never seen the animated Walt Disney version. I probably should, because it seems like good fun.

It would be interesting to write a piece on how each generation's Robin Hood was a product of their times...

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hiya Robin Hood i'm loving the articles but i was wondering what you was gonna write about after you've done an article on everyone.
Great site
luv amy xxx

12:41 PM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Amy,

On the main www.robinhoodblog.com site there are two major films I've not reviewed yet: "Wolfshead" (which I have a copy of but can't play as yet due to the format), and "The New Adventures of Robin Hood", which I just can't find anywhere.

Then I'd like to get the "Robin Hood Was Here" blog up to date. There are lots of places to photograph where Robin Hood and his men used to go.

And the Robin Hood Pictures blog hasn't been updated in ages. I'm working on more pictures of groups of outlaws from each of the films.

Then there's the new film on the way, starring Russell Crowe.

Before you know it, we'll be in to series 2!

This all started as a very small hobby; a place to put postcards of Sherwood Forest. I wasn't expecting it to grow the way it has. But, as long as it stays a hobby and not a job, it's cool.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi everyone,

I liked Djaq from the very first moment I saw her. I knew she was a girl too, even though other people didn't seem so sure on the matter. I guess you could say I feel in love with her character, like the way Alan and Will did.

I really like the way she's strong, independent, and obviously very intelligent.

The only time I felt any disdain towards her was when she picked up the book that contained information about Greek Fire from the fire. I was VERY relieved when Robin saw what she had done, because maybe then he'll have a chance to destroy it before it gets into the wrong hands.

I hope they keep her throughout all the seasons! I think I might enjoy a little romance between her and Will or Alan, since they both obviously adore her- but I don't want them to go overboard. Does that make sense? What do you all think?

-Kristen

4:31 AM  
Blogger Katrina said...

Does anyone know of a fan site to contact Anjali? I think she's a wonderful actress, but it's hard to find information about her here in the US...

3:10 AM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Katrina,

I agree. Anjali has been one of my favourite actors in the series. However, I haven't heard of any fanclubs or websites dedicated to her.

Try some of the Links on the sidebar. The forums there often display links to other sites (like this one).

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She a fabulous actress. I'm so glad they found her for the series, and I hope she and the others will last after season 2.

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say I wasn't sure about her at all at the beginning, and it didn't help that I missed the actual episode where she came in. But she has completely grown on me and I think she really completes the group. I don't think she dispalys an interest romantically for anyone in the group, although if it had to be one of them I would actually say Robin. She respects him and he was in the crusades, so feels the need for peace and has a deep respect for her people. (The look on her face in episode 8 when robin tells her he gave up Guy for her also made me suspect a little.) If I'm honest I think a romance between her and one of the group might upset or change the dynamics for the worse as she's 'one of the lads', but that's just my opinion. We also don't know what or who she left behind in her homeland; she may have left someone behind and hopefully we'll find out more about her background in series 2.

-Hannah xxx

2:11 AM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Hannah,

Djaq is one of my favorites. Mostly because I love the idea of a Saracen outlaw in the group (an idea which started in the 1980s with Robin of Sherwood).

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Robin,
If you love the BBC version of robin hood as much as I do, then I seriously reccommend NOT watching the Disney version. I fell in love with the show and so I decided to watch the cartoon. BIG mistake. It was a very boring, unimaginative movie and it really didn't do any of the characters justice. Despite the catchy Oo De Lally song the whole movie was a huge disappointment and not worth my time.

11:32 PM  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi anonymous,

Well, it might surprise people to know, but I have never watched the cartoon fox version of Robin Hood.

However, this was the second Disney version of the legend.

The very first Disney film about Robin Hood, starring Richard Todd, I do like a lot.

You can read all about it here:

http://robinhoodtree.blogspot.com/2006/04/walt-disneys-story-of-robin-hood-1952.html

11:39 PM  

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