Indian Summers, the most expensive drama Channel 4 has ever produced, is the explosive story of British rule in India and the natives’ fight for independence. It is set in 1932, a time when British rule is weakening. The story opens in Simla, a hill station in the Himalayas, where the British enjoy a luxurious summer and the natives wait on them hand and foot.
This is a highly political drama which shows the contrasting lives of the British families who come to India and the Indian families who are working for and living alongside them. The film highlights the divide, and the tensions which arise from the divide, between these two groups. In one scene we see the rich Brits travelling in the extravagant and expensive-looking carriage of a train, sitting comfortably on their way to Simla. In a carriage behind them are poor Indians also on their way to Simla, travelling in very different conditions. We see them struggling, cramped together, exhausted — and they appear reluctant to travel alongside the British, where they are treated as less than second class citizens.
In a further scene we witness the humiliation the British force upon the Indians. The Royal Club, the heart of gossip and entertainment for the rich, has a sign on the entrance which reads, “No Dogs, No Indians.”
It was interesting to see the conflict within the homes of Indians as the fight for independence was growing stronger. Aafrin, who belongs to a Parsi family and works in the Indian Civil Service for the Raj, is shown trying to hold on to the status quo and does not want to be associated with the emerging struggles of the Indian people. Yet his sister Sooni is deeply involved with Gandhi’s politics and the freedom movement.
As a whole, the drama depicts the lifestyle of the British rulers, commenting on how indulgent and arrogant they were. This makes it all the more painful to see the poor Indian people in the background being treated like animals, doing all the work and serving the elite for nothing.
There are few dramas this powerful. The message it gives us, the questions it causes us to think about, are both refreshing and stimulating to see. It breathes life back into a very important time in history. Every episode should be widely anticipated as this is a drama that will grip viewers and be impossible to forget.
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