“A confusing mish-mash of stories”
Channel 4’s big budget period drama Indian Summers is back for a second series, following the first series’ critically acclaimed outing. As someone who reviewed and loved the first series, I was eagerly anticipating our return to Simla. But did it live up to expectations?
Fortunately the sumptuous cinematography and production values are present as are the talented performances from an all-star cast including Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Julie Walters, Nikesh Patel, Jemima West, Blake Ritson and Aysha Kala. Less fortunate is the pacing of the script, the confusing mish-mash of stories and the underuse and absence of characters.
The story has moved on three years, it’s now 1935 and the British rule is beginning to fade. Private Secretary Ralph Whelan is due to find out any day if he will become the new Viceroy and with the growing pressure to give India independence, mounting financial debts and opposition from Cynthia, the current Viceroy and the visiting Maharaja, Ralph makes a string of desperate decisions with huge ramifications.
Meanwhile, Ralph’s sister Alice is back with the husband she tried so hard to escape from. And it’s no wonder, psychopathic Charlie is hell-bent on making his wife suffer and anyone who gets in his way. A ticking time bomb on the edge of exploding the moment Alice is out of his sight or not obeying him. Alice seeks solace once again with her true love Aafrin Dalal, her former lover and assistant to her brother who has returned after furthering his career in the civil service while secretly plotting against the British rule as part of the Congress Party. However, things get out of hand when subterfuge turns violent, and those Aafrin loves are caught in the crossfire. Secrets unite and destroy as pressure increases and things become more dangerous.
There are issues, namely the turn around in character intentions and behaviours. The once peaceful Aafrin seems to have changed from the likeable and enlightened character of series one to someone whose loyalties are unclear and irrational. Previously his sister was the loose cannon, now she’s still driven but calmer and more focused on her love life. Ralph has gone from pushing a man down the stairs to protect his sister in series one, to standing idly by watching Charlie torment his sister.
Meanwhile, some of the characters barely factor. Fiona Glascott, Craig Parkinson and Julie Walters are criminally underused. Glascott’s character Sarah, who was an unhinged highlight of series one has hardly appeared, let alone commented this series. Walters, as we know, is comedy gold with the perfect cutting remark as Cynthia but although some wonderful tidbits of information are revealed about her past, the society queen appears to have abandoned the party. Art Malik when given the chance is superbly cast and wonderfully creepy as the Maharaja who likes the exclusive luxury he receives along with Rachel Griffiths – but again both were wasted talents, their roles treated as mere perfunctory and void of explanation or consequence.
Although there is obviously many things that could have been better, there are many glowing attributes. Blake Ritson is a delight as Charlie. He’s the perfect villain that you love to hate all embroiled within that British stiff upper lip and charisma. Aysha Kala also shined as Sooni who strives for her independence at the same time making two suitors and the audience fall in love with her.
Sadly, although originally intended to continue for five series, Channel 4 has cancelled the show leaving the audience on a cliffhanger of the future never to be resolved. The most we can hope for is another network (Amazon/Netflix) decide to pick it up and continue the story. Saying that, the series does end on a personal satisfactory conclusion but not politically. To leave the story unfinished would be a shame. Series two may have struggled compared to its first series but it’s important to remember it was scheduled competitively against BBC’s big dramas – plus a third series could easily iron out any problems and return it to the brilliance of series one. I for one will miss Indian Summers.
The DVD features nearly 45 minutes of behind the scenes interviews.
Indian Summers Series Two DVD & Indian Summers Complete Series One and Two DVD Box Set is available to buy courtesy of RLJ Entertainment’s Acorn Label from 16th May 2016.