REVIEW: The heat’s back on in season two of Indian Summers
Last night saw the return of last year’s slow burner, Indian Summers; an evocative period drama set against the historical backdrop of the last turbulent days of the British Raj and the rise of Indian Independence. The stories take place in the hill town of Simla, the summer holiday destination for the civil servants who run the country.
The series was previously touted as Channel 4’s ‘most expensive ever commission at £14m’.
This second series is set in 1935, three years after the events of the first.
The opening scene exploded in a riot of hues as the Indian Festival of Colours was celebrated on the streets of Simla. In the midst of the chaos, a bomb was tossed into the passing vehicle of the Viceroy of India, but no explosion was to follow as expected. It transpired later that the bomb was an empty grenade intended as a warning to the British from the Indian freedom fighters. The Viceroy, although not injured by the grenade, suffered a heart attack.
Cynthia, landlady of the Simla Royal Club, played by Julie Walters in full Lady MacBeth turn, tried her utmost to convince Private Secretary, Ralph Whelan, to put himself forward for the post of Viceroy of India while his boss was laid low.
Julie Walters delved into her trusty bag of tricks and brandished her incredible skills with great ease. Her craft is as natural as breathing. The viperish facial expression and glint in her eye, a little ditty here and there as landlady to lighten the mood when needed – Julie sprinkled a handful of stardust to the proceedings in all her scenes.
Last night’s main storyline, however, centered on Aarfin Dalal, who is our freedom fighter ensconced within the Civil Service and trusted aide of Ralph. Aarfin wrote a seditious pamphlet calling for freedom and distributed it among the people of Simla. Unfortunately for him while he was bribing the staff at the print shop to print his illegal and dangerous material, he was seen by the boss of the print shop.
We held our breath as Aarfin had several close shaves at being found out by Ralph as being responsible for writing and distributing the ‘Strike for Freedom’ material. In the end Aarfin was helped by Kaira Das, his fellow freedom fighter, who identified Naresh Banerjee, a nationalist, as being the culprit. Aarfin got away this time and he will undoubtedly continue to fight for the freedom of India from inside the Establishment.
Ralph had a direct line to the Free Fighters in Kaira, and had a secret assignation with her to find this out. It appeared that his confidence was unfounded, however, as she gave him Naresh instead of Aarfin, her lover. These betrayals and counter-betrayals add extra spice and sizzle to the story. Everyone in Simla had a mask, it would seem.
In the meantime, we also see Aarfin come face to face with his old flame, Alice Whelan, Ralph’s younger sister, who is now married to Charlie Havistock, to whom she seemed to have married in haste whilst still harbouring her forbidden love for Aarfin.
Political intrigue, betrayals, love lives and illicit affairs all set against an exotic and sumptuous period backdrop – this drama has all the essential ingredients for a mandatory Sunday night viewing. We’ll have to wait and see how the story pans out in the nine episodes yet to follow!
Season two of Indian Summers continues on Channel 4 next Sunday, March 20th, at 9:00pm.