Anita Rani began her broadcasting career at the tender age of 14 and hasn’t looked back since. She has presented and worked for numerous shows, including the RTS award-winning Four Rooms for Channel 4, and is the latest member of the Country File team for BBC1. Lynda Clark talks to her about her life and career and her first steps on the property ladder.
Anita Rani was born in Bradford and, even as a very young girl, she found it hard to sit still and was always on the go. “My mum always said that she had to have me on reins when we were going out, otherwise she never knew if I would get interested in something and just run off. There was only a little over two years between my brother and me, so she had to watch us both, which I can imagine could be pretty difficult. I was involved in everything and anything when I was growing up and played loads of sport, and I loved drama too. Broadcasting was always my passion and one day I was flicking through the channels on television and started watching Bradford festival TV. I thought to myself, ‘I can do that’ and decided, there and then, that I would find out more about it. I looked up their address and just turned up and knocked on the door and said, ‘I saw what you were doing and wondered if I can help’. It was a bit cheeky, but they were delighted, invited me in and I started work! I did everything, which was great experience, and I presented programmes in Bradford as well, so it couldn’t have worked out better.”
When Anita left school, her father was very keen that she studied law, but she knew it wasn’t for her and so she found an amazing course in broadcasting at Leeds University, which was perfect. She said, “I had to negotiate with my family that I would do the course and move away from home as well. It was a tough course, but I absolutely loved every minute of it. I really was keen to do my own thing and I lived first in halls and then in a student flat. For the third year, we had to go on a six-month placement, so I went to the BBC and worked in the music department. I was always a big music fan, so it was ideal and, as they liked what I did, they asked me to stay on for the rest of the summer. I worked on shows like Top of the Pops and, although it was hard work, I was young and you can do anything when you are young and passionate about what you are doing.”
Anita made lots of contacts and, when she had finished her final exams, she wrote a letter to a producer in Manchester asking if there was any work available – whereupon he contacted her and said ‘start now’. She spent two fantastic months in Ibiza working for Channel 4 and had to defer her graduation until she got back. “It was a dream come true and I’ve never looked back. I love everything that I do which is very diverse – every programme is different, but each is just as inspiring.”
Luckily she has always had a wanderlust and has travelled far and wide. “I really enjoyed making India on Four Wheels for BBC2, where me and Justin Rowlett went on an epic road trip around India, investigating how the booming car industry had changed the lives of the people in the country. I have just come back from India again as I have made a programme about one of the biggest railway stations in the world in Mumbai. It will be shown on the BBC in September. I am in India one minute then walking in the Pennines the next for Country File, or showing potential buyers homes in Escape to the Continent – it’s such fun!
With a passion for property Anita Rani is also one of the presenters on Four Rooms for Channel 4. This is an antiques show with a real twist and Anita adds, “You really see the weird and the wonderful and I have learnt a great deal about antiques whilst doing the show. My father gave me some excellent advice years ago, telling me not to rent as it was a waste of money. I bought my first property in 2004, which was an apartment, and there was always a little voice at the back of my head repeating to me what my father had said about rent being dead money. I had a very good relationship with my bank manager and, back then, HSBC had a special student mortgage, which was available for the first four years after graduating. It was a 100% mortgage, which was amazing, and I couldn’t have done it without that help. I saw a fabulous red brick development in Shoreditch, which I fell in love with, but the places were way out of my budget. Then I saw a place on Rightmove, overlooking a park and very close to a pub I had recently visited. It was London Fields, which was a hidden gem and now property there is worth a pot of gold!
“I now live in Clapton in Hackney, after my husband and I bought a Victorian house which needed loads of work done to it. It has been a big job but we are nearly there and it looks stunning. We have kept some of the original features, but combined them with a modern twist, as I really like mixing old with new. I still have my original apartment, which I rent out – and I still love it! It is very hard for first time buyers today, but my advice would be if you can afford it, go for it and don’t be put off. Be smart and make friends with the estate agent – they will then be on your side and should be helpful. It will also make them realise that you are a serious buyer. Also, don’t get too attached to a property, because if it goes it goes and you have to be prepared to move on and find something else.”
One of the highlights of Anita’s career was when she presented the Royal Wedding coverage for BBC1, broadcasting live to millions of viewers worldwide. She was given the prime spot outside the Goring Hotel, where Kate and the rest of the Middleton family were staying, and from where Kate left to go to Westminster Abbey. Anita says, “It was a truly wonderful day and these Royal events are what Britain does best. When I saw her for the first time, I was so excited and she looked stunning.”
There are so many programmes that Anita has been part of, including The One Show, where she is a member of the presenting and reporting team. She is the host of a brand new programme on Sky Arts, The Great Culture Quiz, and has fronted a number of films for the This World strand for BBC2, tackling issues that range from obesity in children in India (India’s Supersize Kids), through to decreasing birth rates in Japan (No Sex Please, We’re Japanese) and the rising population in the Philippines (World’s Busiest Maternity Ward). The list is definitely impressive and yet Anita still has her feet firmly on the ground. She said, “I’m excited about making programmes across a variety of genres, but what is always at the heart of what I do is passion and enthusiasm – there’s no point otherwise!” As I finish talking to her, I can only think, ‘keep up the great work Anita as you are inspirational and a fabulous role model’. In fact, I can’t wait until Sunday evening when I can sit back, relax and watch her walking across the UK in Country File – in fact, I think I’m rather envious!