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The show was much more about the personalities than the place

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The Independent Culture

Imagine retiring to a country with a rigid social hierarchy and huge gulf between the rich and poor. It may sound like David Cameron's Britain, but inequality in India is far worse – as eight famous pensioners discovered in BBC2's The Real Marigold Hotel. 

Based on the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the travel series-cum-reality TV show followed a group of celebrities as they travelled to Jaipur to see if they could envisage retiring in a country of sun, sea and infinite smells. 

With the exception of darts champion Bobby George – who had discussed retiring to India with his “missus” – it seemed unlikely any of the pensioners had ever truly thought about living out their final days in the subcontinent, until a BBC producer offered them a chance to rejuvenate their career with a nice pay packet to boot. 

As a result, the show was much more about the personalities than the place. When she wasn't adorning her hair with elaborate scrunchies, former newsreader Jan Leeming declared she wouldn't eat lamb, fish or beef – leaving her haveli housemates with nothing more than chicken to chew over. Hearty chef Rosemary Shrager couldn't help bossing the boys around in the kitchen, while ballet dancer Wayne Sleep didn't want any sympathy about his recent prostate cancer operation. 

Miriam Margolyes hoped she would come “face to face with herself” in India, as EM Forster once wrote about visiting the country. But the actress already seemed well-attuned to her inner needs. When she wasn't farting and “wee wee-ing” her way across Jaipur (trouser-less where possible), she looked and behaved like a character from a Dolmio advert, keen to play the parody version of herself at any opportunity. The camera loved her, and – I have to admit – so did I. 

If you've been to India or watched other documentaries about the country, it's unlikely you will learn anything new from The Real Marigold Hotel. But, like the film, it is a charming, heart-warming and at times laugh-out-loud watch.

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