It’s 1932 and the Indian Civil Service begin the annual move to Simla, India’s Little England and the exclusive white British Club is prepared for the summer season. But while the British cling to power, India dreams of independence.
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Reviewed in the United States on September 10, 2016
I spent a total of three years in India and visited some of the summer retreats the English had built for themselves. I imagined how story-book their lives must have been. I think this series does a truly wonderful job of recreating that life. I found it both nostalgic and tragic.When the Indian father, who's unwelcome at the English Club, but permitted to come as a milk sop to the Indians wanting home rule, and mentions that the medals he wore he received at Galipoli, I was appalled. Anyone who knows a little about The Great War knows that iGalipoli was a blood bath which took the cream of a generation of Australians and prompted their push for independence. The arrogance of the English resenting an Indian hero of that war, who risked his life for crown and country, did more to illustrate the incredible injustice done to the Indian people than any comment could have done. I think this is extremely well done.
I am only halfway through the first episode, so we'll see how it plays out. However, I had to respond to @Pattywolford's comment that there are no "likable characters". Perhaps s/he meant that are no likable _white_ characters, I certainly find plenty of likable Indian characters: Sooni the sloganeer, Alice's childhood hair-puller (now her brother's Rolls-Royce driver), the mysterious freedom fighter with a revolver, the Indian woman on the train who dares correct the Memsahib's pronunciation of "Persephone" ... One minor quibble: the Indians speak English with a weird accent that sounds as if it were the result of a Brit's imagining of an Indian accent. And, they seem incapable of pronouncing Indian words correctly, to wit - "zindabad" is pronounced "zindaabaad" not "zin - d - baad". Stay tuned for more post-colonial commentary and unfavorable comparisons of all the Englishwomen to Edwina.
Indian Summers takes on the waning days of the British Raj in India with some mildly interesting characters and some beautiful photography, but completely lacks the depth and gravitas of The Jewel in the Crown (made way back in 1984). There is nothing subtle in the politics as presented here (always a problem when you have to make your characters say out loud what should be evoked through plot and character development), and the characters in general seem rather inconsistently portrayed from one episode to the next. The central character of Cynthia is a complete waste of Julie Walters' talents -- she's a one-dimensional bore. For the most part, the show really seems to lack the sense of time and place of India in 1932, and feels more like one of those vaguely sentimental period pieces that shows like Downton Abbey really seem to specialize in: lots of beautiful costumes and scenery, but rather ahistorical in tone, with characters who look and sound like they're from a very different time and place than the ones they're portraying. All in all, it's little more than a soap opera masquerading as a history lesson of some sort -- but if you really want to dig into the complexities of the British presence in the last days of the Raj, do yourself a favor and watch The Jewel in the Crown.
Reviewed in the United States on September 27, 2016
I admire this series a lot for its depiction in human terms of life in India during the run-up to that nation's independence. But beyond that, its messages can help us understand the push and pull of national aspirations (past and present and future) in so many other parts of the world. The characters are vivid and credible, the historic references (supposing they're mainly accurate) a learning experience for viewers. The scenery is ravishing and the evocation of the disparity of lifestyles between natives and colonial masters continues to be very, very jarring. Because I'm now following Season 2 on public TV, my review of Season 1 on Amazon is a good refresher to help put the later events in context.. I highly recommend the series to those who haven't yet tried it.
It's hard to know what to say about this series because it is one of the most complicated I've watched in a long time. I actually watched the first episode three times before I could place all the characters but, as the series went on and more things were revealed, I'd now say it is really good! I am a crafter so I am usually watching while knitting or crocheting but I can't do that with this series. It demands my full attention and now I'm glad to give it. The series is set in 1932 in India while the country was still ruled by the Crown and the class differences are stark. The locals are beginning to agitate for home rule and it is very sad to see the local military treat the people so savagely. I am anxious for season two to be released for free!.
Indian Summers depicts beautifully the disturbing dream that was India on the cusp of the eventual end of empire. The cast, of course, is perfect, as is the sense of inevitable tragedy that must touch every life depicted in this rich and evocative script. For me, at least, such stories cause me to catch my breath with anxiety. From our perspective, we see the upheaval undreampt of by the characters living in their own summer, even be it betimes clouded and stormy. There is the same sense one gets from the happy endings of Edwardian fiction - they must all be undone by the iron bite of history. Oh well...Indian Summers is still a sensual feast, in spite of the coming storm.