March 16 2015
Channel 4 colonial blockbuster gets volcanically hot as we get closer to the truth about some characters…
FINALLY, it happened.
There was a heaving sigh of relief…and perhaps even a slight erotic quiver around a couple of million homes (viewing figures at four million) last night as Aafrin (Nikesh Patel) and Alice Whelan (Jemima West) got it on. Take that “Poldark” (BBC 1, 9pm too).
The frantic, lusty, kissing came at the end and they were not the only ones at it, in the pouring rain.
The love-struck pair looked as though there were trying to eat each other’s faces – were they hungry?
Did they only ‘eat cake’ at Ralph’s (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) and Madeline’s (Olivia Grant) lavish engagement party? The two were dressed as Louis XV and Marie Antoinette (pictured below) – their idea of fun???
Last night’s episode 5 – was perhaps the most tumultuous yet.
In came ‘Dalit/Untouchable’ leader Dr Kamble (Sanjeev Bhaskar) who caused quite a stir by attending the engagement party at the behest of the oh-so sincere, Ralph – the top man in Simla, where the drama is set.
He’s cultivating Dr Kamble to split Indian opposition to British rule, led by Congress. He was rebuked by the Viceroy Lord Willingdon (Patrick Malahide) for inviting Dr Kamble – but Ralphie held firm.
The local Maharajah and other high caste Hindus were appalled at the sight of the ‘Dalit’ sitting at the same high table as them.
Writer Paul Rutman shows beautifully that this deeply ingrained and very extreme form of despicable Hindu snobbery was not that far removed from the ethos of the Raj (which also worked on colour lines, and then social position).
Ralphie is a complicated character and perhaps best represents the dichotomy at the heart of the Raj (and the drama).
Last night, we saw him in a Kurta pyjama and eating with his hands – dammit man, this boy has gone native!
If his boss, the Viceroy, Lord Willingdon knew, Ralphie would be out on his ear.
He also snuggled up to his sister, Alice. Jeez, do we need to worry about that too…??
There’s a hint that the scheming, plotting Ralphie, who has his eyes on the top job, has a blemished past from his time in Madras (Chennai) where he was known to the locals as ‘Ma Bapa’ (mother and father – do they know something we don’t?) and perhaps had a child out of wedlock and that too with a Tamil woman! That would surely be too much for the Viceroy and Ralphie’s fiancé, the American heiress (so we were led to believe until another revelation) Madeline.
The Tamil woman in question has made her way to Simla (a journey of some 2,000kms) and keeps haranguing some poor kid called, nay, “christened Adam” (Sachin Sailesh Kumar) who is under the care of the local orphanage and missionary Dougie (Craig Parkinson).
At the very end of last night’s episode, she menacingly appears with Adam at the engagement party but is quickly shooed away by security when Ralphie catches sight of them.
Our priestly Doug is already compromised – he is in a very ‘unchristian’ (his words) relationship with colleague Leena (Amber Rose Revah).
Meanwhile, his much aggrieved wife, Sarah Raworth (Fiona Glascott) is making plans of her own – she threatened to spill the secret that Alice is not a widowed, single mother but is just escaping a bad marriage in England.
Sarah threatened to tell someone/everyone and demanded she sit in Alice’s place much closer to the Viceroy at the engagement dinner – for what purpose it wasn’t exactly clear…did she want to play footsie with him, now that her marriage is in freefall…?
At the moment, there are a swirling number of plots and sub-plots, involving around a dozen characters.
Yes, it has a soapy feel and some have complained about difficulties in following what is happening – but the setting (a lush green, utterly entrancing Penang, rather than modern day Shimla, India), the acting and the sheer ambition of such a drama, dispel any such lingering notion or prejudice.
Stay with it, focus on just one or two of the characters and go with the flow, you’ll love it, promise.
No secret that the Aafrin-Alice romance continues to intrigue us…it was not unusual (though officially disapproved) for ‘Britishers’ to take Indian women as lovers and sometimes, wives, but the other way around…
Bring it on!
www.asianculturevulture.com’s Chayya Syal will be live tweeting here (@asianculturevul) about ‘Indian Summers’ every Sunday between 9pm – 10pm. To follow the discussion, please follow us on use the hash tags #IndianSummers and #asianculturevulture
Here’s just a very small and selective snapshot from last night’s live tweeting
Epsiode 3 – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indian-summers-gets-hot-we/
Episode 2 – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indian-summers-review-week2-killer-drama-sunday-sedative/
Episode 1 – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indian-summers-review-love-lust-politics-hills/
Background and preview – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indian-summers-raj-warts-high-tv-drama/