Raj feast well worth wait

Daily Express - - TELEVISION EXPRESS - Matt Baylis on the week­end’s TV

CALL me a pushover but any TV drama se­ries start­ing with the words “In­dia, March 1932” will have me hooked. I won’t nec­es­sar­ily stay hooked though. The Far Pavil­ions, adapted for TV in 1984 from MM Kaye’s novel, had all the heat and splen­dour of that ear­lier raj- era telly epic Jewel In The Crown but some­how didn’t sparkle.

It’s been a long time since any­one in the TV drama world dared to “do” In­dia again and many, like me, will have set­tled down to IN­DIAN SUM­MERS ( Sun­day C4) in the way foot­ball fans ap­proach a cup fi­nal.

The open­ing did not dis­ap­point. A small boy was be­ing stoned by his fel­low vil­lagers. A pariah, we later learned, be­cause of his An­glo- In­dian an­ces­try. Chug­ging past him was a train, one end laden with In­di­ans, the other with pink, wilt­ing raj- types, head­ing for the sum­mer to the cool of Shimla hill- sta­tion.

A gi­ant party at Shimla’s club pulled all the raj- types to­gether: the mis­sion­ary’s lonely, cur­dled wife, the trou­bled Un­der- Sec­re­tary and the fresh- faced lad from the Clyde.

Mean­while, in the “na­tives” part of town, ru­mours of cholera, anti- Bri­tish graf­fiti and a Parsee clerk in love with a Hindu beauty.

I wouldn’t say this of­fers any­thing you wouldn’t find else­where in the raj- genre of nov­els, films and TV se­ries. I would not, also, call that a bad thing.

As the great chefs know, it’s of­ten best to serve a clas­sic dish, humbly, with­out any fancy touches.

That said, there is, along with the en­dur­ing In­dia themes, a kind of fresh­ness, which comes mainly from the cast­ing.

If the BBC was knock­ing this one out they’d stuff it with ev­ery luvvie from Shep­herd’s Bush to Bom­bay and the re­sult, rather like Down­ton Abbey, would be a bunch of luvvies hav­ing a glo­ri­ous time over­act­ing to­gether.

Apart from Julie Wal­ters as club host­ess Cyn­thia Cof­fin and Craig “Line Of Duty” Parkin­son as trou­bled mis­sion­ary Dou­glas, this isn’t one of those shows likely to be in­ter­rupted by your fel­low view­ers go­ing “Ooh, she’s in it!” ev­ery two min­utes.

They’re likely to be si­lent, en­joy­ing, like you, a raj feast as clas­sic as kedgeree eaten un­der a slow ceil­ing fan.

It’s danger­ous ground, re­view­ing a TV drama that’s been adapted from a book. I usu­ally haven’t read the book in ques­tion, in­deed, I con­sider read­ing it to be very much not a part of the TV critic’s role.

I’m aware, how­ever, that THE CA­SUAL VA­CANCY ( Sun­day, BBC1) turns out dif­fer­ently to JK Rowl­ing’s novel.

If it were my novel, I have to say, I’d shut up and take the money and per­haps JK Rowl­ing has taken that view her­self. I cer­tainly don’t see why the au­thor should be un­happy about most other as­pects of this light and dark, vil­lage- life saga.

The bump­tious, pompous machi­na­tions of the Pag­ford Parish Coun­cil carry a flavour of that old clas­sic Clochemerle, whose char­ac­ters were scan­dalised over plans to erect a public uri­nal in a sleepy French vil­lage.

In this case, it’s a com­mu­nity cen­tre, gifted to the vil­lage by a Vic­to­rian phi­lan­thropist and now, de­spite be­ing vi­tal for the less for­tu­nate, up for grabs.

Nicely cast, splen­didly scripted, the BBC hasn’t put a foot wrong.

Un­less you count the time- slot, ex­actly the same as In­dian Sum­mers. A blun­der that makes me won­der if there’ll be va­can­cies in the sched­ul­ing depart­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.