What do you remember about thirty years ago today- 11th Jan 1978? I remember the day quite well, but for a sad reason. I came home from school to be told the news that the actor Michael Bates who played Indian bearer Rangi Ram, in one of my favourite tv programmes- It Ain’t Half Hot Mum had died of cancer. He was only 57.
Rangi Ram was one of the funniest characters is one of the funniest comedy series of all time. (A series that, to the great shame of the humourless types who now run the BBC and who think that repulsive 'let's sneer at the plebs' shows like ‘Little Britain‘ represent ‘comedy‘, has not been repeated on terrestrial television since 1984).
Bates, who was born in India and spoke fluent Urdu, played his role quite brilliantly. Although IAHHM carried on until 1981, the series undoubtedly lost something when Bates died. As a tribute to Bates, here’s a classic clip from IAHHM in which Rangi Ram is asked, by bullying RSM Williams (played so memorably by the incomparable Windsor Davis) in no uncertain terms, where his loyalties lie.
For those unfamiliar with the show, Bates always ended the show by reciting a wise ‘old Hindu proverb'. There were many very memorable ones, but one of my all-time favourites is:“ house with red lamp over door is not always headquarters of Communist Party". Very wise words indeed for radically minded visitors to Amsterdam and Bangkok.
Enjoy the clip and remember one of Britain’s great comic actors.