Mixed welcome for new Raj drama ‘Indian Summers’ on UK TV

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Feb 16, 2015 23:11 IST

Some called it 'too PC and very dull', others found it 'too leisurely', but most Britons who switched on to the prime time 9pm slot on Sunday slipped into collective Raj reverie with Channel 4's new series, Indian Summers, set in 1932 Shimla.

Steeped in orientalism, Raj nostalgia has been a favourite genre of British writers, film makers and television producers, and Indian Summers follows the script faithfully, reminding viewers of scenes from classics such as Jewel In the Crown, A Passage to India, Heat and Dust and Gandhi.

Indian Summers is billed as Channel 4's most expensive drama. The first episode of the 10-part series drew comparisons with the popular Downton Abbey. Some reviews gave Indian Summers the thumbs up over Downton.

Many recent Indian immigrants cringed at the first 90-minute episode, particularly when a board outside a club announced 'No dogs or Indians', while Britons of Indian origin with a different - 'translated' - memory of India welcomed it.

Lavishly shot in Shimla, the first episode drew this review in The Guardian: "Indian Summers is certainly a nice place to spend an hour, beautifully lit, with stunning cinematography. Verandas overlook verdant mountain ranges, blooms heavy as melons spill off bushes, palpable heat sticks to everything. It's a welcome contrast to the uniform grey outside UK windows".

Calling it 'too PC and very dull', the Daily Mail commented: "Indian Summers wanted to be a drama of subtle details, where the narrative unfurls as slowly as a rhododendron blossom. That technique demands great depth and meaning beneath every trivial gesture. This episode…wasn't shallow - it was something worse. It was fake".

However, The Independent review saw it as "a vibrant, intense kaleidoscope of conflict that makes Downton Abbey look like a soap opera", and added that it "is a fully immersive experience that plunges its audience headlong into 1930s Simla in British-ruled India. Viewers are engulfed by a dense miasma of conflict and tension that hangs heavy in the air and gets even heavier as the episode unfurls".

Starring Julie Walters, the cast includes Roshan Seth, Lillete Dubey, Nikesh Patel, Aysha Kala, Henry Lloyd-Hughes and Jemima West. The series is created and written by Paul Rutman, and directed by Anand Tucker.

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