The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - Review

Wherever she goes, Lumley is the main attraction

- Rupert Hawksley

Joanna Lumley’s India ITV, Wednesday

t shouldn’t come as any great surprise to discover that Joanna Lumley travels in somewhat greater style than the rest of us. It’s hard to imagine her ever easyJettin­g off to Majorca to crisp up on a hired sunlounger by the pool.

Instead, Lumley has spent the past few years exploring altogether more exotic destinatio­ns for a series of delightful, if not entirely rigorous, travel documentar­ies. Since 2010, she has scooted up the Nile, braved the Trans-Siberian Express, and rattled around Greece and Japan. But, wherever she goes, Lumley is always the main attraction, striding about with great purpose, grinning toothily and charming absolutely everybody she meets. She may be the only travel presenter in history to have actually upstaged the Acropolis. This time around, in

she is travelling the length and breadth of the country where she was born 71 years ago, during the last days of the Raj. It sounds like the perfect match of subject and presenter: Lumley, whose parents returned to Britain with her when she was just a year old, still has family ties throughout India, continues to use words like “niminy-piminy”, and looked every bit the colonial part in head-to-toe white linen. I half expected Lord Mountbatte­n to wander into shot at any moment.

And yet, despite all this, something wasn’t quite right. Attempting to do justice to such a vast and diverse country in three, hour-long instalment­s was always going to be a stretch and the first episode felt rushed and chaotic. Lumley covered 1,500 miles in this one hour alone, tracking down wild elephants, speaking to three of the 10,000 people who identify as transgende­r in Calcutta, and

Ivisiting the house in the foothills of the Himalayas where her mother grew up.

Each of these sections could have been expanded quite comfortabl­y to fill an entire episode but we kept getting chivvied along to the next thing. This was all the more frustratin­g given how inconseque­ntial some of the other parts of the programme felt. A visit to a film studio in Hyderabad, where Lumley was mocked up, using CGI, as a Hindu goddess, struck me as particular­ly pointless. Little better was a trip to Sikkim, on the border of Tibet, to see Kangchenju­nga, the third highest mountain in the world. When Lumley arrived, it was invisible behind a thick duvet of mist. “I have paid you the greatest respect by not even looking at you,” she said, a little desperatel­y.

I’d rather have spent more time in the company of the eccentric old family friend of Lumley’s to whom we were introduced near the beginning. He spends his days touring India on a motorbike. When Lumley jumped on the back, he warned her not to wobble. “I’m not going to do any wobbling,” she replied. “I was trained in the Avengers if you remember.” There seemed to be potential for the two of them to have some great adventure but no sooner had we met him, than he zoomed off the screen, never to be seen again.

But the most compelling part of the episode was Lumley’s interview with the three men who wanted to become women. She is so good at showing empathy because she doesn’t ever try to. On this occasion, though, she was clearly moved by their stories of abuse and alienation. One had been locked in a cupboard and starved for three days by his mother. “You will survive. You will triumph. In the meantime, you are all my daughters,” Lumley said, pulling the three of them close to her chest.

She has family ties throughout India and still uses words like ‘niminy-piminy’

If Joanna Lumley’s India felt too short, was a marathon. Part of the usually excellent Storyville strand, this 80-minute documentar­y about man’s relationsh­ip with pigs was so flabby, you could have made crackling with it.

Split into eight parts, with titles like Love, Death and Revenge, Angus Macqueen’s film explored everything from the production of bacon to the transplant­ation of organs from pigs to primates.

There were some arresting statistics – we were told, for example, that half of all animal feed produced is eaten by pigs – and some welcome wacky asides. I particular­ly enjoyed meeting the young, hip American couple who sleep with Coco, a hefty sow,

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