Living it up in the dy­ing days of the Raj

Herald Sun - Switched On - - ON THE COUCH - DEB­BIE SCHIPP TV WRITER

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

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