Joanna Lumley returns to the country of her birth for her upcoming documentary Joanna Lumley's India. 

The presenter and Absolutely Fabulous actress talks about the emotional journey, the complexities of filming in the country and what it meant to her on a personal level. 

What makes India such a unique and captivating place?

I think, because it's the size and complexity of Europe, but it's one nation. So everywhere is different, utterly different. Different languages, food, style of dress, everything. 
But India is the largest democracy in the world. It's got the richest people in the world and also the poorest, sometimes living within half a mile of each other. So it's a country of extremes and incredible beauty. I could rave on and on about it.

Why is India so special to you on a personal level?

I was born in India and lived there until I was nearly a year old. My parents were brought up in India and they had family on both sides going back to the 18th century. They said that no matter how long you live there, you will never really know India, because it's too big and too complex. 
This was quite a challenge for us making the programme: where to start? I just wanted to show things and places which were not the obvious tourist spots.

Asian Image:

Joanna Lumley's India (Pictures ITV)

What were the highlights of this series for you?

Impossible! So, so many. The beauty of the Ellora caves in Aurangabad, which are caves carved out of the rock, 34 temples carved in such detail out of a single piece of rock. 
They are excavated down the height of St Paul's Cathedral, I can't even describe it.
Also, meeting the Dalai Lama, seeing elephants in the wild, filming tigers, visiting some of the poorest people in the world, staying with a maharaja. I haven't got a favourite,- except every day waking up in India was special.

Of the travel series you've made, this feels the most personal because of all of your family connections was it emotional at times?

My father and my sister were both born in what is now Pakistan, but was India at the time, so we obviously didn't visit there and some chunks of my family history are missing, but yes, it is a bit of a personal journey. 
It's lovely when I can say, 'My grandfather lived here or that picture is my uncle over there'. It was quite something going back to Kashmir, I've been back there before but each time I think, 'This is where I drew my first breath' and it was in India, and it was here in Srinagar. It made me feel very humble.

How do you feel about seeing the Residency Gardens, where your mother grew up?

It was lovely in Sikkim. I come from an unsentimental family because we all moved all the time. 
It was home to us for a bit, but it wasn't our home, it was where the political officer (my grandfather) lived at the time. 
It was special to see, but really we come from a travelling tribe. That said, I felt a strange feeling of sudden happiness, knowing my mother as a little girl rode her pony across the ground I was standing on.

Asian Image:

Joanna Lumley's India (Pictures ITV)

You experience both extremes of India, the excess and the poverty. Were you surprised by anything you saw?

I think what surprised me this time was how much India has changed since my last visit, about six years ago. It seems much cleaner. Also I was shocked by how many plastic bags they use,- 10 million a day are thrown away.

I was taken aback by the progress of India: Mumbai and Delhi are super--cities now, In Delhi it's called cyber city. It's like something from a science fiction film, the buildings they have created and the progress they have made. India is always astonishing. It really is a sensational country.

You're involved in the Loomba Foundation, which campaigns for windows around the world. What can you tell us about that?

Widows in some parts of the world have the most wretched lives and are almost treated as non-people. In Britain, 22 million fear loneliness. We want people not to feel lonely. 
Look out for widows, take care of them, make sure they are included and you keep in touch with them. Remember the people who need our help.

Joanna Lumley's India begins on Wednesday July 5 on ITV

(By Jeananne Craig)