Shobna Gulati

Shobna Gulati

Shobna Gulati in 2012
Born (1966-08-07) 7 August 1966
Oldham, Lancashire, England, UK
Occupation Actress, presenter
Years active 1998-present
Employer BBC (1998–2000)
ITV (2001–14)
Known for Anita in Dinnerladies
Sunita Alahan in Coronation Street
Spouse(s) Anshu Srivastava (1990–94)
Children 1

Shobna Gulati (born 7 August 1966[1]) is a British actress, writer, and dancer. Gulati is a soap star best known for playing Anita in Victoria Wood's Dinnerladies and Sunita Alahan in the long-running soap opera Coronation Street from 2001 to 2006, a role to which she returned at the end of 2009 and departed again in 2013. From 13 March 2013 to 30 May 2014, Gulati appeared as a panellist on the lunchtime chatshow Loose Women.

Gulati is also one of very few actors to have appeared in both Coronation Street and its rival series EastEnders (in 2000).

Early life

Shobna Gulati in 2007.

Gulati was born in Oldham, Lancashire to parents of Hindu Indian descent. She has a degree in Arabic and Middle Eastern politics from the University of Manchester.[1]


One of Gulati's earliest appearances was as a dancer in the video for Boy George's 1991 single "Bow Down Mister." In the late 1990s, she received excellent reviews for her work in Victoria Wood's BBC sitcom Dinnerladies as a main character, this finished in 2000 after two years and she appeared in both series. She appeared as Ameena Badawi from October to December 2000, in EastEnders she is one of few to have appeared in both rival-soaps EastEnders and Coronation Street, also Gulati appeared in the crossover between both soap's (East Street) in 2010 as her main character, Sunita. In 2001, she appeared in the short film Shadowscan, directed by Tinge Krishnan, which won a Bafta Award; and, in 2004, Gulati was nominated for a Manchester Evening News theatre award for her work in the play Dancing Within Walls, which was staged at the Contact Theatre in Manchester.

Gulati has also appeared on the TV quiz shows Call My Bluff, Have I Got News for You, The Weakest Link, Russian Roulette and as Diana Ross in Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes. In early 2006, Gulati took part in the Reality TV series Soapstar Superstar.

After Gulati left Coronation Street initially in 2006, she played Nisha Clayton, a recurring role in the final series of Where the Heart Is and made appearances in New Street Law and the one-off comedy drama Magnolia which was written by Dave Spikey for BBC's Comedy Playhouse series.

In October 2006, Gulati appeared at the Royal Albert Hall as part of a short skit featured in The Secret Policeman's Ball. In the sketch, Gulati and co-star Nitin Ganatra play a holidaying couple who are under the mistaken belief Guantanamo Bay is a holiday resort. The sketch also starred American actors Chevy Chase and Seth Green.

Gulati has recently been seen as one of many storytellers in the CBBC revival of Jackanory and in the UK tour of the hit play Girls Night by Louise Roche. She also appeared on the Channel 4 special Empire's Children, tracing her family's history during the partition of India. In summer 2007, she appeared in Pretend You Have Big Buildings at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.

In 2008, Gulati made her debut as a filmmaker, producing the short film Akshay for the motiroti's 60x60 Secs.[2] This was shortlisted for the Satyajit Ray, short film awards. During this same period, the actress returned to her Coronation Street role as Sunita Alahan, where she stayed for three years.[3]

On 11 June 2009, Gulati appeared in the BBC1 programme Celebrity MasterChef. She did the first stage tour of Dinnerladies in early 2009 and she has appeared as a guest story teller for (cbbc, Bedtime Stories). In November 2010, Gulati was a guest panellist on ITVs flagship show Loose Women, to celebrate fifty years of Coronation Street and in April 2012, to celebrate soap week and in June 2011, Gulati was a guest on Countdown. Upon announcing her departure from Coronation Street, the actress expressed her desire to write and perform more comedy than her soap-opera career permitted her time to do.[3] In 2016, she appeared in the ITV/Netflix series Paranoid. Gulati also made a guest appearance on Casualty on 29th October 2016.

Loose Women

Gulati made her loose women debut on the 18 November 2010 to celebrate 50 years of coronation street, appearing alongside regulars Kate Thornton, Sherrie Hewson and Carol McGiffin. Gulati returned to loose women on 11 April 2012 appearing alongside regulars Andrea McLean, Jane McDonald and Janet Street-Porter during soap week. Gulati returned to the show as a regular from the 13 March 2013, taking over from Sally Lindsay who took time off to film Mount Pleasant, from September 2013, Gulati became an occasional Panelist on the show, before leaving on 30 May 2014.

Gulati made 17 appearances in Series 17, Gulati made 12 appearances during Series 18.

Personal life

Gulati is the daughter of Dr K.A. Gulati who arrived in Oldham from Bombay, India in 1960.[4] She has a younger brother, Rajesh and older sisters Sushma and Hema.[4]

Gulati married the architect Anshu Srivastava in a Hindu ceremony on 10 November 1990 but the couple divorced in May 1994.[5] She lived separately from her husband and became pregnant with Akshay.[6][7] From 1999 to 2003 she went out with ex-Emmerdale actor Gary Turner.[5]

Gulati has a working knowledge of six languages and is a vocal supporter of Asian women's rights and various anti-racism campaigns.[8][9] She works on female body image issues.[10] She is a supporter and a season ticket holder of Manchester United.

Gulati was called in to join a murder hunt in December 2004 following the murder of Shafilea Ahmed. The actress worked with detectives hunting the killer they believe claimed the life of the Asian teenager who turned down her suitor for an arranged marriage. At a press conference appealing for more information about the teenager's death, Gulati read out some of the poems found in her bedroom by police during their investigations which "were a testimony to her sadness at being caught in a culture clash with other members of her family".[11]

After the reading, which moved her to tears, Gulati said she believed they showed that Shafilea was trapped between two cultures. "It can be very difficult if you are born here but your parents were not and there can be a lot of cultural issues," she said. "It is a situation facing many young Asian women who are unable to express themselves properly within their families. I feel these words are the sort of style she would use when talking with her friends. If she is out there she should let people know she is safe because there are organisations and individuals who can help her."[11]

Gulati went on to say that she sympathised with the teenager's difficulty in balancing her culture with her upbringing. "She has obviously been unable to express herself in terms of her family and she probably talks like this to her friends, or has written these songs in private."[12]

On 7 September 2011, Cheshire Police announced that Shafilea's parents, Iftikhar Ahmed, 51, and Farzana Ahmed, 48, of Liverpool Road, Warrington, had been charged with her murder. Their trial ended in August 2012 with both parents being found guilty of murder, and sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison.[13] The prosecution claim she was killed by her parents because she brought shame on the family by her desire to lead a westernised lifestyle.[14]


  1. 1 2, Shobna Gulati official website
  2. 60x60 Secs website
  3. 1 2 (No author.) "Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati to quit soap," BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat, 31 October 2012.
  4. 1 2 Fletcher, Rebecca (19 January 2002). "The little man in my life". Daily Mirror. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  5. 1 2 Staff writer (13 November 2003). "She was just 24 when she wed in a Hindu's part of her". Sunday Mirror. Trinity Mirror.
  6. Staff writer (16 May 2009). "Shobna Gulati: I still can't look at myself in a full-length mirror". Daily Mirror. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 31 August 2016. I married this British Indian guy who I met at a wedding but we were separated within a year. It was an acrimonious split. Basically, I was too young to get married. Then I met Akshay's father in London. I was 28 when I became pregnant we split up. I didn't want to have a termination so I decided to go ahead and have the baby.
  7. Staff writer. "No Regrets For Shobna Gulati". FemaleFirst. She told Scotland's Sunday Mail newspaper: "It can take over your life. People began to treat me as Sunita. My son is now 15 but when I was in Dinnerladies he was only three...."
  8. Wylie, Ian (22 November 2004). "Shobna Gulati just can't relax". Manchester Evening News. Trinity Mirror.
  9. Marsden, Carl (4 March 2009). "Shobna: Girls are not second class citizens". Oldham Advertiser. Trinity Mirror.
  10. Nikki Bedi (presenter), Shobna Gulati (guest) (9 December 2009). Nikki Bedi (Radio) (BBC Asian Network ed.). BBC. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  11. 1 2 Staff writer (17 February 2007). "Euro boost for Kingsway". Manchester Evening News. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  12. Staff writer (11 January 2008). "UK | England | Merseyside | Hidden angst of 'trapped' teenager". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  13. Carter, Helen (3 August 2012). "Shafilea Ahmed's parents jailed for her murder | UK news". The Guardian. London: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  14. Ravenscroft, Nick (11 July 2012). "Shafilea Ahmed death: Father 'did not kill daughter'". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
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