India became independent almost seven decades ago when the British finally headed back to theirtiny island nation, after spending over 200 years in the colony, which for the longest ime was a radiant jewel in their crown. But time has still not dampened the interest in the British colonial history and the lives of the European rulers and
their Indian subjects.
For the last few decades, authors,
scriptwriters, filmmakers keep developing
projects that connect the British and the
Indians. The field is rich — from the success
of the two Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films,
to the stories of Indian and Pakistani immigrants in Britain, like Bend It Like Beckham
and My Beautiful Laundrette. And who can
forget the hugely popular British series The
Jewel In The Crown (1984) that followed the
Oscar-sweeping biopic Gandhi (1982).
Now viewers in America will experience
another delightful and gripping series —
Indian Summers. The show will run
September 27 to November 22 on
Masterpiece on PBS. The nine-part, 10-hour
long series (the last episode runs for two
hours), features some well-known Indian
names — Roshan Seth, Lillete Dubey, Julie
Walters and Ayesha Dharker, along with
many new and young actors.
The writer of the show, Paul Rutman, has
a long association with India and many years
of experience writing for television. He
speaks about creating the project and his
rich, diverse and well-etched characters.
I wanted to clarify one thing — the series
you have created is not related to Alex Von
Tunzelmann’s book Indian Summer, right?
I remember there was talk about a film being
made based on that book.
It’s not. That’s a great book about (the last
viceroy of British India Louis) Mountbatten
and the last years of the British rule in India.
So, this was based on original research that
Yes, that’s right.
What was the starting point of the charac-
ters and the plot you created?
The starting point was a family holiday we
were taking in North India. We stayed in a
hotel in Darjeeling, which back in the day
was a boarding house for unmarried tea
planters and administrators.
As you know Darjeeling was a similar kind
of hill station as Shimla. I got talking to the
manager who showed me a treasure trove of
photographs — all stuffed in a cupboard —
of these British people living, dining, tea
dances. It was moving and almost kind of
like a Disneyfied Little England, surrounded
by servants and staff.
The British are always looking at the cam-
era, and the Indians are sometimes looking
at the camera and sometimes not. That
struck me. The ordinariness of that. Nobody
questioned it. It became a pattern. Also, this
was a way of life that went on for thousands
of people, until quite recently — just a few
generations ago, and it touched the lives of
Indians and the British. The pictures paint-
ed an amazing story.
For me, I wanted to have an Indian and a
British family in the story to try and give two
different perspectives. I didn’t want just a
British story with nostalgia for a lost world.
So, it wasn’t like you were looking for a
story. You just happened to be in Darjeeling
with you family?
Yes. I have been back and forth to India
many times — from the time I worked there
in Ooty in Tamil Nadu. That was my first
exposure to hill stations. I have loved India
for more than half my life. It was something
I didn’t know I was looking for, but the story
What were you doing in Ooty?
I was teaching drama at a boarding school
I have been wondering — was the show shot
in Ooty? It seemed like it was situated in the
We were originally going to shoot in Tamil
Nadu, and then we considered another hill
station in Kerala and even a few in Sri
Lanka. In the end we ended up shooting in
Penang Hill in Malaysia. Similarly, it is
where the British used to go up the hills on
retreat and they built similar houses.
You actually have a lot of Indians living in
Malaysia so you could find extras.
Writer Paul Rutman reveals his
deep connect with the country and
how the story of Indian Summers
found him in this conversation with
Aseem Chhabra/India Abroad.
‘I have loved India for
more than half my life’
PHOTOGRAPHS COUR TESY: NE W PICTURES/CHANNEL 4 FOR MAS TERPIECE IN ASSOCIATION WI TH ALL3MEDIA INTERNATIONAL
BRITISH DRAMA, INDIAN HEART
India Abroad September 25, 2015
THE MAGAZINE M13