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Indian Summers Premiere Review and Recap — Secrets and Sabotage


Set in a subtropical paradise during the twilight era of the British Empire, Indian Summers explores the collision of the ruling class English with their Indian subjects, and the intricate game of power, politics, and passion that ensues. Julie Walters (Harry Potter, Oscar® nominee for Billy Elliot and Educating Rita) stars as Cynthia Coffin, the glamorous doyenne of an English social club, and is joined by Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Jemima West, Nikesh Patel, Roshan Seth, and Lillete Dubey.

Told from both the English and Indian perspectives, the drama of Indian Summers unfolds as illicit agreements, romance, and revolution abound. Though the English socialites are having the time of their lives in Simla, the local Indians have started to call for national independence, a path which is quickly rendering the world’s greatest empire helpless. As pressure builds, the two sides alternately clash and merge in a passionate and dangerous game.

Indian Summers Recap and Review

The Cast of Indian Summers
The Cast of Indian Summers

Indian Summers is a series on PBS’s highly acclaimed Masterpiece Theatre. It is set in the 1930s, in the exotic country of India which is still a colony of Great Britain. There is a famous adage “the empire on which the sun never sets,” and that was applied to the British Empire in the 19th and 20th centuries. Indian Summers weaves a story of Indian and British people living together in what was considered the jewel in Great Britain’s crown, India.

The society that has existed for centuries is beginning to shift. The old ways of prejudice and separation are starting to become challenged by those who want change. At the beginning of the series, a little boy hurriedly runs away from a group of boys who are throwing stuff at him. He runs into a forested glade and all the people (adults included) stand there, not lifting a hand to help the poor boy.

Alice Whalen on the train with her son. What secrets does she hold?
Alice Whalen on the train with her son. What secrets does she hold?

Meanwhile, a young woman by the name of Alice Whelan is traveling on a train with her baby. She fans herself vigorously as she makes idle chit-chat with a woman who seems to be too nosy for her own good. All of a sudden, the train stops, and no one can figure out why. Alice, who has found it difficult to breathe, leaves the train to get some air. Dougie, the husband of the nosy woman that she was speaking to, comes out of the train and urges Alice to return inside for her safety.

Indian Summers stillWhen Dougie goes to find out what happened to the train, he finds that it is the little boy from before who has stopped it. He seems to be badly injured. Leena, a sari-clad woman from the train (who had been sitting at the same table as him) is there to take a look at the boy. She knows instantly who the boy is and she states that he is considered a curse by many of the locals. Why? No one can figure it out. It is then that Leena and Dougie carry the little boy off to get his wounds tended.

Indian Summers carry boyDougie’s wife, Sarah, shouts out the window, trying to get him to come back onto the train. But it seems that Dougie is eager to do what is right despite the fact that his condescending eavesdropper of a wife refers to anyone who is not British as them, as if they are some alien species. With that, he disappears for a while.

A celebration at the Royal Simla Club.
A celebration at the Royal Simla Club.

After this scene occurs, it show a sign that reads: “The Royal Simla Club.” The very bottom of the sign reads: “No dogs or Indians.” An acerbic reminder of colonialism in even its most vile form. An elderly woman by the name of Cynthia Coffin oversees the preparations of the club for the arrival of her summer guests. She is an imperious looking creature who is all business and no fluff. There is more to her than meets the eye. Something tells me that she will be a great force of evil or good in the upcoming episodes.

Aafrin Dalal, the clerk to Ralph Whalen.
Aafrin Dalal, the clerk to Ralph Whalen.

Elsewhere in India, there is a young man by the name of Aafrin of Dalal. He is Parsi and he lives at home with his family. While he lives in a small dwelling, he works in the palatial villa of Ralph Whalen and he acts as a clerk. His younger sister makes a comment about his assimilating to the British system, claiming that he is part of the propaganda. One day when he is at the villa, he witnesses a situation where an unknown vandal defaces a portrait of Queen Victoria with Devanagari writing in red paint. As Aafrin returns home, he soon notices remnants of red paint on his sister, Sooni’s hand. Talk about being caught red-handed! Needless to say, the police are arriving soon to search the homes of the locals to find the culprit. This particular plot should prove interesting as the show continues.

Sooni Dalal, the sister of Aafrin and the one who fights for Indian independence!
Sooni Dalal, the sister of Aafrin and the one who fights for Indian independence!

Indian Summers thus far is a fascinating show that is replete with an unraveling society. People who have been subjugated for centuries are starting to fight back, to support the man who is spearheading the entire campaign, Gandhi. Meanwhile, the British colonizers, who attempt to appear liberal (such as Ralph Whalen) are actually striving to maintain the status quo that has kept their subjects in line for a long time. The sign to me was offensive, but the fact that the camera zoomed in on it tells me that this show is going to throw us for a loop.  A society that has been standing for a long time will be shaken from the very pillars that it stands on and it will be challenged.

Indian Summers is off to a promising start and I am interested to see where it goes!


  • Graphic Content: Please be aware that there is minimal graphic content but that it is still there. There is one scene in which it is present.
  • Spoilers: While there was almost no romance to speak of, there were two occasions of it. One was a fiery encounter between Aafrin and a young lady who he wants to marry. It was interesting, but it was only for a moment. It was not impressive (at least not yet). What caught me by surprise was the interaction between the do-gooder Dougie and the seemingly wise Leena. Leena explains that the little boy is cursed because he is biracial, that he is both Indian and British. She adds that she herself is the same and that she is looked upon as a curse by those in India. That is when Dougie leans in to kiss her, by which he is rewarded with a firm slap.
  • Recommendation: If this sort of era and topic interests you, I suggest checking out the celebrated 1982 film Gandhi. It tells the story of the life of  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his fight for Indian independence.

Overall Rating

Four and a half corset rating

“You had me at hello.”

Romance Rating

two heart rating

“I have not the pleasure of

understanding you.”

Photo Credit: BBC/PBS

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By on September 28th, 2015

About Kendall Turchyn

“It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.” Jane Austen once said. Employed as an editor at a publishing house, Kendall loves the written word most of all and anything pertaining therein. She is a writer, a historian, a book reviewer, a blogger, a medievalist, and, most importantly, an ardent lover of reading. Among her interests are history, period pieces, classic works of literature, historical fiction, literature centered on women, and the Middle Ages. Kendall is currently in the process of writing and completing her first book, a paranormal romance set on a stormy island in Maine. To find out more information about Kendall, visit her personal book-reviewing website: www.MerryWifeofWindsor.com.

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