'Indian Summers - The Complete First Season'
(Nikesh Patel, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Julie Walters, et al / 4-Disc DVD / PG-13 / 2015 / PBS)
Overview: Set against the sweeping grandeur of the Himalayas and tea plantations of Northern India, this epic drama tells the rich and explosive story of the decline of the British Empire and the birth of modern India, from both sides of the experience. But at the heart of the story lie the implications and ramifications of the tangled web of passions, rivalries and clashes that define the lives of those brought together in this summer which will change everything.
DVD Verdict: In England, Channel 4 went for an updated Jewel in the Crown and mixed it with a Downton Abbey vibe. Location shooting in Penang, Malaysia, and not India, but with a hefty use of green screen to make the viewer think we in the foothills of the Himalayas as British colonials spend the summer in Simla, 'Indian Summers' might take some getting used to for those in the know of that era, trust me.
It is 1932 and Ralph Whelan and the rest of the Indian Civil Service start the annual move to Simla, the exclusively white British Club is the centre of the social scene. A mixed race boy is found collapsed on the railway tracks and an assassin attempts to shoot Whelan but a Parsee civil servant Aafrin takes the bullet. It also seems that Whelan is the father of the boy.
Aafrin is hailed as a hero but he also has tensions in his own family as well as his forthcoming marriage. In fact many people in Simla have a back story and secrets. This is a 10 part series and boy it moves at a snail pace. It really is a throwback to the dramas of the 1980s and drama has moved on since those days. People want pace and economy of storytelling.
It is primarily here in 'Indian Summers,' that we have lingering shots as the director wants to show off the production design, the costumes, the scenery and gives us plenty of flashbacks toboot in his filming technique. In fact, somewhere here there was a good five-part series which was stretched out to a ten-part series! The figures actually proves that point/theory, because the viewing figures dwindled from the opening episode's five million viewers - which, in all fairness, was excellent in this day and age.
The final two episodes pick up the pace as we saw the upstart Indian tea plantation owner Ramu got up to his neck in trouble. In truth, 'Indian Summers' was not as upfront with its callous and brutish colonial attitudes as The Jewel in the Crown, but we get plenty of subtle and unsubtle racist attitudes and hypocrisy. Whelan could save Ramu, but he rather tie up some loose ends. Just look at the police investigation of the murder which Ramu did not commit, because (as it's rather obvious) they were out to get the upstart than the real culprit.
The series will return for a second series, but this should had been better. The acting is a mixture of good and bad, people certainly look good. That all said, high production values and a leisurely pace will not sustain it, sorry! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Hear Stories from The Set and Learn About the Costumes and Locations in This One Hour Documentary Featuring Interviews with The Cast and Crew.