Journey of a lifetime

(Left-right) Wayne Sleep, Jan Leeming, Roy Walker, Patti Boulaye and Sylvester McCoy star in The Real Marigold Hotel. Picture: Anna Katz
(Left-right) Wayne Sleep, Jan Leeming, Roy Walker, Patti Boulaye and Sylvester McCoy star in The Real Marigold Hotel. Picture: Anna Katz
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In this new travel documentary, an all­star cast head to India to test whether they can set up a better, more rewarding retirement than in the UK.

The new series, inspired by but otherwise unrelated to the blockbuster film, documents the authentic experience of eight famous senior citizens as they head to India on an experimental adventure.

It is a complex and majestic country, with many languages, great literature and in the 19th century, a shared history. I can never have enough of India.

Miriam Margolyes

We follow actor Miriam Margolyes OBE, dancer Wayne Sleep OBE, actor Sylvester McCoy, comedian Roy Walker, chef Rosemary Shrager, darts champion Bobby George, singer Patti Boulaye OBE and former news reader Jan Leeming for three weeks to see if they would consider spending their golden years retiring to the other side of the world.

Four thousand miles from home, the group will land in colourful Jaipur, capital of the state of Rajasthan in Northern India and will take over a haveli ­ an Indian private mansion ­ and from the moment they arrive they will have to work out how to set up home together: from who’ll cook and clean and whether they will hire staff, to how they will get around and spend their time.

Their unforgettable Indian adventure will see the group fully embrace Indian culture, from the surprises of the capital’s largest slum to meeting Jaipur’s Royal family at the opulent Rambagh Palace.

As they settle into local life, members of the group will take to yoga and learn some Hindi, experience shopping in the hectic streets, hunt for potential properties and take advantage of the medical care.

We’ll see them visit the Ganesh Chaturti festival, ride elephants, make a trip to one of the holiest Hindu cities in India, Varanasi, and also test out long-distance travel by embarking on a 150­mile trip to the jewel in India’s crown, the Taj Mahal.

From the environment to the food, the transport to the customs, moving away from the UK is guaranteed to be a culture shock for our cast ­ as they leave routines and loved ones behind to adapt to living together and to a completely new way of life.

Sharp, witty, and full of great one­liners, Harry Potter actress Miriam has already visited Jaipur, but wants to delve deeper. Certain that there is much to learn about India and its people, Miriam, a humanitarian, is keen to fully embrace Indian life and to make Indian friends amongst ‘these glorious people’.

What did you enjoy most about India?

The people must come first; they are imaginative, fully alive and beautiful. And the women are extremely intelligent and forceful.

What was your role within the group?

I hoped it was to be, as I often am in a group, the form wag –­ the class clown. I really liked my fellow travellers; I marvelled at their talents. Bobby is a remarkable man, Wayne is deeply generous and gifted, Patti is a brilliant singer –­ and I got to know the others, who shared their private thoughts with me. I hope to know them all in my life to come.

Tell us about one of your adventures...

In one day, we visited both the slums and the palace of the royal family in Jaipur. The slums were filthy on the outside, stinking and cramped. But the LIFE there, the teeming, smiling, vivid life we saw, the puppet masters full of colour and imagination, real artists ­– that made it memorable and enjoyable. I admire the sense of family, the openness with each other. And then to the palace – where the dignity of the slum people was mirrored by their social superiors, all infinitely gracious – only the surroundings were different.

What can Brits learn from Indian culture?

I would hope that Brits can marvel at the range and sophistication of the various Indian cultures. It is a complex and majestic country, with many languages, great literature and in the 19th century, a shared history. I can never have enough of India. I long to return.

Young at heart, Scottish actor Sylvester is most famous as Doctor Who and recently appeared in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. A real people person, he wants to find out how the elderly are treated in India, and is set on visiting slums and understanding how the poor can seem so happy when living in what, by western standards, is such squalor.

What was the highlight of your stay?

Watching a young gypsy man, Danesh, enthusiastically teaching his joyful class of slum children how to read and write English, in his spare bedroom.

Tell us about some of the people you met.

I dined with kings, drank cocktails with Maharajas, but best of all was dancing with puppeteers in the slums of Jaipur.

What was your role in the group?

To raise a smile, and play the spoons!

Charismatic dancer and performer Wayne Sleep wants to reconnect with his spiritual side in India and would love to give yoga and meditation a go. Dance, music and culture are his passions, so he’s interested to see what the Indian arts scene has to offer.

What surprised you most about the experience?

How happy and friendly all the people of India were.

Indian culture is so different – what really stood out for you?

The fact that even though the poor are so much poorer than the rich, they are contented with their lot. Also the fact that for Indians, religion is a way of life, whereas in Britain it is more of a hobby.

What can brits learn from Indian culture?

Peace of mind and that there is a place for everybody.