May 4 2015
The final episode of Channel 4’s popular colonial drama ended on some poignant notes and our live tweeter looks back on a tumultuous few weeks on social media and what the future might herald…
by Chayya Syal
“INDIAN SUMMERS“: it was dubbed the more colourful and exotic version of “Downtown Abbey” poised to take over our TV screens every Sunday night for 10 weeks.
Before the Channel Four colonial blockbuster even aired, it set off a series of fiery discussions on social media, with many users on Twitter condemning the show: ‘Oh, it’s another white man creating a show about India’.
While the creator, Paul Rutman is indeed a white man, “Indian Summers” made for a refreshing piece about television about an era of British history which is either glorified or completely ignored by the mainstream. The show opened up many avenues of discussion about the British Empire as well as viewers’ minds and eyes about British history.
The final, 90-minute special, episode was packed full of emotions. We saw love; tears, cheers and fears come to fruition as series one drew to a close, with many of the characters re-evaluating their allegiances.
It all started with two envelopes; each containing a potential outcome for Ramu Sood’s (Alyy Khan) fate. The first: that he would hang and the second: be incarcerated for life. The decision fell to Ralph (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) who nonchalantly stated: “All I have to do is post a letter” as though he were buttering a piece of toast. In an interesting twist, he turned to Aafrin (Nikesh Patel) and asked: “What would you do?” which showed a subtle shift in their character dynamics.
Ralph’s guilt as an unavailable father to Adam (Shachin Sailesh Kumar) continued as Dougie (Craig Parkinson) revealed that he knew Ralph was the father and confronted him about his manipulative behaviour. It showed a much softer side to Ralph, that we hadn’t seen before, with many questioning his sincerity. Does Ralph really want to be an attentive father to Adam or is he continuing to cover his tracks?
With Ramu’s fate hanging in the balance, we found out who really murdered Jaya (Hasina Haque), which continued to muddy the waters and put notions of loyalty under scrutiny. It was Ralph’s loyal manservant Bhupi (Ash Nair) who then unsuccessfully attempted suicide after Ralph caught him gifting his wife a bracelet that belonged to Jaya.
Quaking with fear and severely traumatised, Bhupi later confessed his crime after Ralph and Aafrin saved him. It was an enthralling scene as viewers watched Ralph speak Hindi to Bhupi in a comforting, yet menacing manner: “If you don’t forget, it will make things very hard for me.”
First he shoves people down flights of stairs, splits up families to save his sister and then blackmails his friends in Hindi – remind me to never cross Ralph!
Viewers discovered that Bhupi and Ralph had been born weeks apart, grown up together and maintained their staunch childhood friendship, despite the rigid social formalities which discouraged any relationships forming between the British and Indians. And in case, Bhupi’s role in Jaya’s murder doesn’t make much sense – it turns out that he believed Jaya to be dangerous and had tried to protect Ralph from her.
This discovery swayed Ralph’s decision about Ramu Sood – he had woken up long before Aafrin and posted one of the envelopes without consulting him. As soon as Aafrin woke up and discovered which envelope Ralph had taken, he ran to try and stop Ramu’s hanging from taking place. But it was all a little too late, as in a stunningly devastating scene, Ramu was sent to the gallows. It sent social media into hysteria as viewers were frozen with shock at his fate. As Ramu stood, flanked by two Indian soldiers, he looked up and saw Cynthia Coffin (Julie Walters) coldly look down at him and cruelly mock saluted him, before a black bag was put over his head.
In the crowds, Ian (Alexander Cobb) and Sooni (Aysha Kala) were beyond distraught as he helplessly cried: “Someone please do something!” and repeatedly cried: “They can’t do this”. It made for a deeply emotional and distressing scene, as the realities of corruption within the British Raj were played out on screen for all to see.
Visibly rocked by Ralph’s true colours, Aafrin decided to work as a double agent for both the Indian Civil Service and the freedom fighters. But where does this leave his secret relationship with Alice (Jemima West)? Alice wanted to tell Ralph about their relationship, but having seen Ralph’s betrayal, Aafrin discourages her by saying: “He’s a dangerous man Alice, we cannot trust him.” The development of their relationship should make for intriguing viewing in series two – will they be caught out and eventually have to tell Ralph?
Having witnessed and experienced the injustice of the British courts, to Ramu and himself, Ian decided to take matters into his own hands. Ian proved himself to be “Hero of the Season” as he openly defied the British and gave Ramu a sense of dignity and triumph.
Ian stole a box of ashes – which he believed were Ramu’s – and sent the British on a mad goose hunt all over Simla to try and capture him.
Social media dubbed him as a ‘Scottish Indiana Jones’ as Ian dealt Sergeant Singh with a blow to the head, made a mad dash through the bazaar and slipped into the hills. Later that evening, Ian, Alice and a large group of Indians gathered on a bridge chanting:”Ramu Sood” in front of the British soldiers in an act of defiance. Ian then triumphantly cast Ramu’s ashes over the bridge and was given a hero’s reception.
With so much going on, it was all too much for the self-proclaimed ‘Queen of Simla’, Cynthia.
First her closest ally Ralph abandons her, the Club is attacked and its members unanimously vote for natives to be allowed in. It was the first time, that Cynthia had well and truly fallen from her pedestal of power. Following the members’ vote, Cynthia reluctantly concedes and states that only one Indian can become a member. It came as no surprise that Aafrin was chosen and he arrived with his father (Roshan Seth) in tow. After an awkward and shaky start, the Dalals managed to fit in and mingle with the hoity-toity of Simla.
Outside Cynthia sat outside, in tears and drinking her sorrows as she helplessly watched her control over the Club and its occupants slip away.
In the midst of her melancholy, an unlikely hero came to Cynthia’s rescue – Ralph. Viewers were rendered speechless as Ralph uttered the magical words of: “You’re all I’ve got” – they patched up, emerged from the ruins of their friendship arm-in-arm, stronger than ever, and made their way back to the party.
“Indian Summers” series one finished (April 19) on a reflective and vague note. While series one’s open ending left some viewers frustrated, I believe that the series ended on a giant keg of dynamite and has beautifully set the stage for series two, with many of the actors from series one, already in Malaysia to begin filming. I, for one, eagerly await the return of “Indian Summers” and look forward to seeing where the story picks up from.
Main picture: Cynthia Coffin (Julie Walters) in the final episode of series 1 contemplates the new fate of her beloved Club whose members have voted to permit locals
- ‘Indian Summers’ returns in early 2016 and will pick up three years later in 1935.
- UK only watch the final episode http://www.channel4.com/programmes/indian-summers/on-demand/57674-010
(You can watch all but the first episode on Channel 4 until May 20 http://www.channel4.com/programmes/indian-summers)
ACV EXCLUSIVE: Jemima West (Alice) and Aysha Kala answer your twitter questions
- Episode 9 catch-up http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indian-summers-catch-up-episode-9-love-and-death-in-the-final-straight-details-of-twitter-ask-actors/
- For all Chayya’s episode round-ups, please see TV archive http://asianculturevulture.com/portfoliosets/tv/