A BRADFORD comedian has opened up about his childhood in the city after a hit production he stars in – which is touring the country – was performed in his hometown last weekend.

Tehseen Jay has spoken of how he was raised by his grandparents – with money hard to come by – and bullied at school.

He reflected on the racism he experienced growing up, as one of only a few South Asian families in a predominantly white British area, as well as his mental health struggles.

Tehseen, 37, is starring in the pantomime Cinder’Aaliyah, written by Manchester-born actor and comic Abdullah Afzal, best known for his role as Amjad in Citizen Khan.

Cinder’Aaliyah – which has been delivered by charity Penny Appeal to raise money for victims of the Pakistan floods – is a South Asian take on Cinderella.

It was performed at The Life Centre in Bradford on Saturday.

“Cinder’Aaliyah is a clean comedy suitable for families, and incorporates music, humour and language from our culture,” said Tehseen, who is from Heaton.

“We’ve been performing across the country, so it was nice to be back in Bradford, and to see my family again – it’s difficult touring and being away from home for so long.”

Tehseen is best known for The Nana G Show, a humorous take on British-Pakistani – and more specifically, Mirpuri – culture.

The show, which began to go viral during the 2020 lockdown, uses puppets and aims to promote the Pahari-Pothwari dialect, spoken in Azad Kashmir.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

The Nana G Show has been particularly popular with audiences in Bradford, owing to the city’s large Mirpuri community.

“On social media, I have fans all over the world, but the biggest following is definitely in Bradford and Birmingham,” said Tehseen.

“Bradford has shown me a lot of support, and I felt that even more when I was performing here.

“As it’s my hometown, that felt very important.”

It felt like support was largely absent during Tehseen’s youth, however.

“We were the only Asians in a white area, so I grew up with racism, which wasn’t easy,” he said.

“My grandparents weren’t rich, and we struggled financially. We saw a lot of hard times.”

He added that he had to grow up fast, and that school was not always a kind place.

“I got bullied and that affected my confidence, and the way I would communicate with others,” he said.

“I hated school. Going there felt like a punishment.

“It felt like there was a lot of neglect. Sending kids to a bad school can affect them later in life.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Tehseen in character, as part of Cinder'AaliyahTehseen in character, as part of Cinder'Aaliyah

“I am where I am because of Allah, and because of the duas [prayers] of my elders, who were a big blessing for me, and very dear to me, as they raised me. 

“Their support, and the support of the people of Bradford, means a lot.”

Being on stage has only furthered Tehseen’s ambition, he continued.

“Being in Cinder’Aaliyah has really helped me to progress, and Abdullah Afzal has supported me a lot and helped build my confidence,” he said.

“I’ve learnt a lot from him, he's been a great friend and a great mentor.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Tehseen said Abdullah Afzal has been a huge help in his careerTehseen said Abdullah Afzal has been a huge help in his career (Image: Penny Appeal)

Although Bradford – and its British-Pakistani community – often bear the brunt of negative stereotypes and perceptions, Tehseen highlights that he is just one of many who are trying to break the mould

“There’s a plethora a of talented and very hard-working, successful people from Bradford’s British-Pakistani community,” he said.

“Many of these people have helped to put Bradford on the map and are supporting the city’s youth.

“People like Naveed from EnKahnz and Imran and Nabeelah Hafeez from Bradford Stories Bus are doing fantastic jobs.

“Mr MunchBox is known throughout the UK for his food reviews, while Imam Asim and Imam Adil have done amazing work, going up and down the UK trying to motivate the youth and make a change.

“Youth worker Sharat Hussain from Mary Magdalene CiC, Sofia Buncy from the Khidmat Centre, Faisel from Regal Foods, Asghar from MyLahore, Rizwan Malik from The Madisson events venue, Naz Shah MP – these are all further examples.

“My advice for youngsters would be to follow your dreams, be unique, think outside the box and don't live in somebody else's shadow.

“Never give up and keep fighting to make your dreams a reality.”