Living it up in the dying days of the Raj
It’s a 1930s English period drama, filled with dizzying excess, power and intrigue, haves and have-nots, a domineering matriarch, characters guarding secrets and impressive ensemble cast.
Just don’t compare Indian Summers to Downton Abbey. It’s far more contrary than that.
For a start, while the story is set in the ex-pat British community ensconced in India in the 1930s, it’s filmed in Malaysia because that is where the 1930s-style locations could be found – they’re long gone in India.
And while Downton’s residents are acutely aware of the class divide, the English expats in an India are either blissfully or determinedly unaware that the power of the British Raj is faltering.
Into the dizzying mess of contradictions comes actor Jemima West’s Alice Whelan, a woman with a secret, a baby, a husband back in England, and a brother, Ralph, (Henry LloydHughes) who is high up in the Indian political pecking order.
Anglo-French actress West (left), 27, grew up in Paris and attended the Sorbonne, so is no stranger to straddling two countries.
It was Indian Summers’ period, political unrest, cultural clashes and intrigue which drew her to the project, and Alice.
“Seeing how rich the series was, and the period and India and the politics of the time which I didn’t know much about, it was all very compelling and new to me,” she says.
“And then there was Alice. This woman being brave enough to leave everything she has behind to go to India and reconnect with her past and explore what she can is amazing, so for me it was a no-brainer.
“What really surprised me was the way that the British seemed oblivious to what the locals thought or how they were being perceived.
“I think they were oblivious because lots of them saw it as an amazing opportunity to go to another country – to India - and lead lives that they couldn’t afford to live back home.”
INDIAN SUMMERS, BBC FIRST, SATURDAY, 8.30PM