During the 90-minute special, which was aired twice over the Christmas break, Clarkson made a string of jokes about the Indian
food, clothes, toilets, trains and even the country’s history.
Jeremy Clarkson and the controversial ‘muffins’ banner in the Top Gear India special. Photograph: BBC
Incidents during the show included Clarkson driving a Jaguar around an Indian slum with a toilet fitted in the boot, and stripping off his trousers in public in front of two Indian dignitaries to show them how to use a trouser press. He joked that he used it to make naan bread.
The Indian high commission in London has lodged a formal complaint with the BBC about the show.
“We have received a letter [of complaint] from the Indian high commission,” said a spokeswoman for Top Gear. “We will be responding directly to them in due course”.
The spokeswoman would not elaborate on the exact nature of the complaints, although a report in the Telegraph says that the high commission letter accuses the show of being “tasteless” and breaking a filming deal.
“The programme was replete with cheap jibes, tasteless humour and lacked cultural sensitivity that we expect from the BBC,” the high commission said in its letter, according to the Telegraph. “I write this to convey our deep disappointment over the documentary for its content and the tone of the presentation. You are clearly in breach of the agreement that you had entered into, completely negating our constructive and proactive facilitation.”
The ongoing gag that Clarkson and his co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond referred to throughout the show was that the trip was all part of a UK “trade mission” to India.
One stunt involved putting banners with seemingly innocuous slogans – such as Eat English Muffins – on the side of trains. However, the banners were strategically placed so that when the trains carriages split a new, offensive, phrase emerged: “Eat English Muff.”
The train banner stunt included one slogan that said “British IT For Your Company” that transformed into the word “Shit For Your Company”.
The BBC initially received 23 complaints about the show, which attracted five million viewers when it first aired on 28 December, although the spokeswoman said on Thursday that this number has now risen to 188.
The Indian high commission had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
The Top Gear trio have developed something of a habit for stereotyping or insulting foreign nationalities.
In February last year, the BBC was forced to apologise to the Mexican ambassador after a joke by Hammond that Mexican cars reflected national characteristics, saying they were “just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat”.
May described Mexican food as “like sick with cheese on it” and Clarkson predicted they would not get any complaints about the show because “at the Mexican embassy, the ambassador is going to be sitting there with a remote control like this (snores). They won’t complain, it’s fine.”
The BBC is also facing an investigation by Ofcom over Clarkson’s recent rant onThe One Show, which led to the corporation receive 32,000 complaints about his comment that public sector workers who went on strike should be “executed in front of their families”.
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