Sanjeev Bhaskar tells Graham Kibble-White why he doesn't feel the need to be liked any more...
Last Christmas, Kumars star Sanjeev Bhaskar turned TV hero, starring as detective Vik Chopra in BBC One's Chopra Town. Now he's taking another turn, this time as a television naturalist.
In Final Chance To Save, a surprisingly moving and personal film, the 42-year-old funnyman journeys into the Indian jungle in the hope of seeing a tiger in its natural habitat.
"I think originally it was Meera who was going to do the documentary," he says, referring to his wife and fellow Kumars star Meera Syal, aged 45.
"I just got very envious of the fact she was getting to do this trip, so I thought, 'Well, how do I remove her from the picture?'. So I got her pregnant!"
We'll be taking about the results of Sanjeev's diversionary tactics a little later, but for now, back to the documentary.
"Tigers have always been my favourite animal," he says, "and during the course of the filming - and after I came back too - I was trying to work out why it was when I was three and someone said 'What's your favourite animal?', I said 'Tiger' without thinking.
"It suddenly dawned on me that I was a real people-pleaser as a kid. The tiger kind of represented the one animal that just didn't need to have friends. It chooses you, you can't choose it.
"When I thought about the people who'd made an impact on me growing up, looking back I thought that was the thing that drew me to them. They all seemed like they didn't need anyone.
"I found that fascinating because I thought, 'What's that head space where you don't care whether you're liked or not?'.
"So that's what I think I was drawn to fundamentally about the animal, outside of its aesthetic beauty."
When asked if he remains a people-pleaser today, he muses: "It's almost a cliche that people who want to be liked go into acting.
"But, in a way, I don't feel the need to be liked any more. I'm kind of clearer about who I want to like me.
"That's great, because it frees you up to actually be yourself, rather than constantly playing a role, and that's what I think I did early on."
For those of us more familiar with Sanjeev's comedic persona, this is surprisingly thoughtful stuff.
It's a side of the comic that blossoms in the documentary, particularly during a pivotal moment when he's just seconds away from seeing his first tiger in the wild and his tour guide tells him it's time to go.
"That was just unbelievable," he splutters, "because, it had been so frustrating up until then not having seen one. Then I realised 'OK, this really is about fate and destiny and kismet and all of that kind of thing'.
"I actually got to the point of thinking 'Am I deserving enough to see a tiger in the wild? Maybe it works that way around'.
"I think, we live in an incredibly instant-gratification society where we regard immediacy as a right. We want our bins cleared on time. We want to be able to record TV programmes and watch them when we want to.
"We don't want to wait around. We want phones that work wherever we are. If our food doesn't come in 15 minutes in a restaurant, we get irate.
"So I had a bit of a logic-shift. 'Maybe it's the other way around,' I thought. 'Maybe I have to' - to use a terrible pun - 'earn my stripes'. Perhaps that's the reward at the end of it, you learn to take it easy and become a bit zen about it all."
While Sanjeev may have been philosophical about the possible non-appearance of a big cat, the programme-makers were under-standably less sanguine.
"We did have discussions at that stage as to what we do with this film if we don't see one," he confesses.
"Do we try to cheat it? "But I said no, because I think the whole thing is really about the journey."
Away from the jungles of India, Sanjeev's been embarking on another, equally intense journey. Last year, he and Wolverhampton-born Meera became parents of a baby boy, Shaan.
With his son now eight months old, the proud father admits life is still chaotic. "But it's the most amazing thing that's ever happened," he continues, "and I absolutely love being a dad.
"The agony of when he's ill is just awful, because you can't do a thing. But, when he first had hysterics at something, I just felt so privileged to see it. It's just those building blocks.
"I think parenthood is such a privilege. It's a shame there's a point where people forget that."
Has he been surprised by how he's reacted to the experience?
"Yeah I have actually," he says, "because I had no reference point for it. I've got a younger sister, but there's no one in my family who's got babies about.
"There's been that weird thing which people also experience when they're getting married of 'I don't know, I'm not sure about this because I'm leaving a part of my life behind, which I'll never get back'. But, to be honest, most of the stuff I've left behind is the crap that wasn't particularly good for me anyway. So, what replaces it is just amazing."
As for balancing parenting with work, he admits: "That was a little difficult, because we've both been doing a new series of the Kumars.
"It was the first time we were working post-baby. However, it actually turned out great.
"My parents would come over on recording days, so Shaan was still with family. And we made sure we didn't hang around too much before and after rehearsals and shows, which we might have done before.
"What was great was so many guests this time around were also parents. So, it was nice to talk to Gordon Ramsay about kids.
"As for being a 'new dad bore', fortunately I was a bore before anyway, only about other subjects.
"So not too much change there." ..SUPL: