Amanda Redman as Dr Lydia Fonseca in scenes from The Good Karma Hospital. Picture: supplied

Dr Lydia Fonseca (Redman) is the glue that keeps The Good Karma Hospital running...or so she would like to believe.

Located in small coastal town in South India, the hospital boasts a mix of British and Indian staff. This hospital prides itself on helping everyone that walks through its doors: locals, expats and tourists.

In walks Dr Ruby Walker, who is hoping a change of scenery will help heal her broken heart. Despite being warned about the dreaded Delhi-belly, she embraces her new world, populated by sacred cows and tuk-tuks. And hers is one of the many characters that Fonseca crosses paths with. 

On agreeing to the role, she says: “When I was sent the scripts, I read them so quickly because I was fascinated not only by this character but also by the world in which she lives.“I think Lydia is fantastic. She’s a middle-aged woman who’s been living in India for 30 years, married to an Indian man. She moved out there and fell in love with the place. 

So when the marriage ended she stayed on. “She considers herself to be the head of The Good Karma Hospital. She’s not, but she tells everybody else that she is. She’s passionate about her work and is a wonderful doctor, but she’s quite bullish, opinionated and very bossy… so not a lot of acting required actually!”

Redman continues: “Like any strong, successful woman, she’s also incredibly vulnerable. Her husband left her and she hasn’t had a proper relationship since then because she doesn’t really trust men. Now she is in a relationship with Greg, somebody she continually puts down in a jokey way. You can see that she cares for him a lot but she’s too frightened to let her guard down. She’s very stern with her patients but she has a huge maternal streak. She is also very anti-Catholic because of something that happened to her as a child growing up in a convent. She has very strong opinions about that but at the same time she can’t quite let go of it either – she’s in conflict about it all the time.”

Amanda Redman as Dr Lydia Fonseca in scenes from The Good Karma Hospital. Picture: supplied

Shedding light on her character’s relationship with Walker, she offers: “I think when Lydia first meets Ruby she thinks she’s just another – and I quote the script here – ‘half-trained British doctor here to practise on Indian people’. So I don’t think she has a lot of time for her. But she starts to see that Ruby is made of much sterner stuff and begrudgingly starts to show her more respect. 

“I think what she recognises is a lot of herself in Ruby. The fact that Lydia never had any children… I think she sees Ruby very much as a daughter figure. She quite fancies herself as a mentor to her. It’s interesting that, like mother-daughter relationships, there is a little bit of conflict going on between the two of them but they always come back to being very fond of each other.”

As much as Fonseca tries to come off as emotionally detached, she doesn’t fool everyone. And even though she won’t admit it, there is one person that she cares about who challenges her at the hospital. 
Redman reveals: “Dr Ram Nair is a very serious Indian doctor whom Lydia has known for a long time, maybe since she first came over here, and he, as she calls it, is the nominal chief of The Good Karma Hospital. 

“He tolerates her and puts up with her because he’s extremely fond of her. They have (even though they are of similar age) a father-daughter relationship and he lets her get away with murder, but every now and again he is the only person that can bring her to book about the way she behaves – and she takes it from him.”

The script gives a very well-rounded perspective of the different faiths in the community. 
Redman adds: “What fascinated me about these scripts is that because it’s set in a secular state which has Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity, all of which are very important in our world at The Good Karma Hospital, Lydia is very aware of how careful she has to be when dealing with the different cultures to win their trust. At the same time she’s a scientist so there’s this fascinating balance between faith and medical science. 

She struggles with it herself – not that she would ever admit it – whereas Dr Ram has his faith as well as being a doctor and he is completely okay with that. But she’s not. She’s uncomfortable with it and I love the conflict that happens as a result.”

The Good Karma Hospital offers a wonderful balance between light and dramatic moments, with some characters rooted in tradition while others embrace modernism. 
 
* The Good Karma Hospital airs on BBC Brit (DStv Channel 120) at 8pm, tonight

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