Based on the last years of the British Raj in India, Indian Summers is an epic television drama set in the summer of 1932. The series is written by Paul Rutman and producer Charlie Pattinson, who recently worked on the BBC show The Missing. Commissioned by Channel 4 and co-produced with PBS, the series cost £14 million to make and is reportedly the most expensive period drama the channel has ever produced.
Julie Walters heads the cast as Cynthia Coffin, the proprietor at the Royal Shimla Club, located in the region where the British retreat to during the summer. The drama revolves around three families and the rest of the relatively unknown actors are plunged into plots of adultery, cultural and racial divides and even an attempted assassination.
What makes Indian Summers work is the well written script and its picturesque location. The inner rumblings of a country’s fight for independence, inspired by Gandhi’s protests, are cleverly explored as we witness the British Empire about to crumble. The visuals too are sumptuous (filming took place on the Malaysian island of Penang) and this delightful cinematography provides a stunning backdrop to the show’s sweeping narrative. This has a huge scope that few British television shows have ever achieved (save for the BBC’s ill-advised Rhodes).
It’s easy to see why comparisons with Downton Abbey have been made as the 10-part series delves deep into class divides, however Indian Summers offers viewers so much more. While Downton has always felt like a poorly written soap opera in period costume, the plot in Indian Summers is overtly more grown-up and intricate. There’s much more at play here than cheap drama and the political commentary is handled much better than in the Jullian Fellowes drama.
Indian Summers is set to air in the US in Autumn and with a second series recently commissioned, it will be interesting to see if the show can continue to hold up.
This little Indian scorcher is definitely worth your while.