In Brief

Indian Summers season two finale: it 'never really made sense'

Fans sad to see the Channel 4 drama end, despite criticism that storyline was 'all over the place'

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Fans of the 1930s drama Indian Summers were left in mourning when its final episode aired last night, but critics are still complaining about its underwhelming storyline.

In the show's finale, the wife-beating Charlie (Blake Ritson) finally got his comeuppance and Cynthia (Julie Walters) gave up her club. Sooni (Aysha Kala) converted to Islam, with her parents refusing to acknowledge her by her new name Layla, while Ralph (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) handed in his resignation as Private Secretary.

But some parts of the plot, written before Channel 4 announced that there would be no season three, left some critics confused.

Viv Groskop at The Guardian wondered if she had missed an episode: "It's a classy farewell from the show that piled high the feel-good factor – but never really made sense at all."

As usual there was a lot of great acting in this episode and some "truly moving moments", she said, but also as usual "it was all over the place and nothing was really advanced or sewn up."

Groskop added that she will miss the "sumptuous beauty" of the cinematography and some "fine" performances, but cannot forgive Indian Summers for "not really making that much sense ever".

Nevertheless, it received high praise from fans on Twitter, with some saying they were "devastated" that Channel 4 had pulled the plug on the drama so soon. 

Aisha Farooq, a writer for British Asian magazine DESIblitz, thinks it was a "fitting end" to the show and its efforts to tackle the widening cracks of the British Raj.

"While viewers will not get a chance to witness the rest of the political strife that leads to a bloody and murderous partition in 1947," she says, "the finale of Indian Summers ends on a moment of communal hope and promise for a new and happier future that India may one day see."

Indian Summers: Will final episode tie up the loose ends?

12 May

Channel 4's decision to axe Indian Summers after the current season has left viewers worried the plot will have no meaningful conclusion.

Set in the British Raj of the 1930s, the show was initially supposed to run for five series. However, Channel 4 announced last month that, with a number of new drama launches already confirmed for 2017, it would not be commissioning a third series.

The show lost around half of its audience between the two series and critics complained about the "strangely constipated story" – although episode eight, which aired last week, was felt to have finally injected some excitement into the plot.

Alice (Jemima West) attempted to leave her villainous husband Charlie (Blake Ritson) to run away with Aafrin (Nikesh Patel), but was caught at the last minute.

Fans on Twitter hope Charlie will meet a violent end, while a Radio Times poll of 1,021 people found that 77 per cent did not think the show should have been cancelled.

Viv Groskop at The Guardian described the eighth episode as a "heart-stopper", but said it was "probably the right decision" to end the show as it has ultimately "lost momentum". Indeed, this week's ninth instalment "unravelled into a hotchpotch of plotshell".

Right decision or not, the critic fears fans will be left without a meaningful conclusion in Sunday's finale. "Presumably they didn't know there would be no series three when these episodes were made, so we're going to be left on an unsolvable cliffhanger whether we like it or not", she says.

Nevertheless, she's hoping it goes out with a bang: "Fingers crossed for a blinding finish."

The final episode of Indian Summers will air on Sunday at 9pm.

Indian Summers: Why the sun is setting on the period drama

25 April

Producers have pulled the plug on Indian Summers after half of its viewers failed to tune back in for the second season.

Competition from other channels during the prestigious 9pm Sunday night slot has caused problems for the return of Channel 4's most expensive commission.

Despite this year's production costs soaring to more than £15m, the number of viewers has fallen from around three million to 1.7 million per episode.

"The channel has pummelled absolutely everything into making this series better than the first, but brutal competition from The Night Manager and ITV's Doctor Thorne has proved too tough," a source told The Sun.

A Channel 4 spokesman said: "We're incredibly proud of Indian Summers and have loved having it in the schedule. But with a number of new drama launches already confirmed for 2017 we have decided not to commission a third series."

Reviewing the latest episode, Viv Groskop at The Guardian says the show is "always so near and yet so far from brilliance".

Despite experiencing "genuine tears and genuine fear" during last night's instalment, the critic adds: "Unfortunately nothing can stop the feeling that it's all just all over the place."

Andrew Billen at The Times has previously complained that season two has a "strangely constipated story", while Jasper Rees at the Daily Telegraph said: "You'd scarcely care if the British characters of Indian Summers were blown up."

Indian Summers series two suffering from 'constipated' plot

24 March

Indian Summers series two has barely begun and already critics are complaining about its "constipated" plot.

In this week's second episode, Indian double agent Aafrin Dalal (Nikesh Patel) struggled to hold back his manic nationalist comrade Naresh Banerjee (Arjun Mathur), while the viceroy's private secretary, Ralph Whelan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), admitted to his wife that he had an illegitimate son.

The Guardian describes it as a "quality" episode and is optimistic this series will be better than the first. But it adds there is a feeling the plot is still being established. "Nothing has quite taken off yet," it says. "It's all set-up and no punchline."

The recently returned drama is "a lovely bit of telly", says the Daily Telegraph, but "the sad fact is that it has lost over half its audience between series one and two".

David Stephenson at the Daily Express suspects this is partly down to its 9pm Sunday slot competition.He acknowledges the plot "moves on at about the same pace as a sunny afternoon in 1935", but says that ultimately, it can't compete with the BBC's John le Carre adaptation The Night Manager or ITV's Doctor Thorne, the latest drama from Downton Abbey's Julian Fellowes.

"Poor old Indian Summers," he says. "If you want to launch a returning series, you couldn't pick a worse spot in the schedule than up against both The Night Manager and Doctor Thorne."

Andrew Billen at The Times says it is a "strangely constipated story" and complains that the big reveals – such as Ralph's confession – "always fall flat".

Nevertheless, he is enjoying watching "horrible, controlling" Charlie Havistock (Blake Ritson). "Even his singing voice repulses," says Billen. "His presence is inflaming Ralph's incestuous loins. Can we hope something is stirring in the plot too?"

Indian Summers series two is 'pleasing to the eye but hollow at heart'

16 March

Indian Summers season two began with a bang on Channel 4 this week, opening with a terrorist attack against the British viceroy of India.

Luckily for him, the grenade thrown into his carriage was not loaded, but he still had a minor heart attack, setting in motion a chain reaction likely to engulf all the major characters from the first season.

The viceroy's private secretary, Ralph Whelan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), was urged to take over the position, while rebellious double agent Aafrin Dalal (Nikesh Patel) was accused of writing a dissident pamphlet praising the would-be attack.

"The return of Paul Rutman's drama is as welcome as the first day of spring," says Andrew Billen in The Times. "It is almost ridiculously pleasing to the eye."

The episode began in a "literal riot of colour" with Indian boys flinging spices at one another, he adds, and Cynthia Coffin (Julie Walters) wearing a Union Jack turban bigger than her head.

Nevertheless, "one does wish something would happen", concludes Billen.

Sarah Hughes at The Independent also praises the "sumptuous settings" as well as the "impeccable performances", but says the programme has a "hollow heart".

"Indian Summers talks a good game but then fails to truly commit," she says. "It's certainly a stylish story but too often the substance is left behind."

Thanks to a "riotous turn" from Walters as the local madam, the show is not "completely unwatchable", says Christopher Stevens at the Daily Mail.

"She welcomed a crowd of booze-sodden Brits to her clubhouse in the Himalayan foothills, wearing a red, white and blue turban that opened to reveal a white dove," he writes. "The dove refused to fly away, so Julie jumped up and down like a madwoman on a pogo stick."

But Stevens is among several critics to note the plot is "basically the same" as BBC One's The Night Manager, starring Tom Hiddleston.

The flaw of Indian Summers is that necessity requires the British characters to be "perfectly ghastly", says Jasper Rees at the Daily Telegraph. As a result, none of them are worth rooting for, with the possible exception of Ralph's conflicted sister, Alice (Jemima West): "You'd scarcely care if the whole pack of them were blown up by the big bomb that, it was revealed, was being prepared for them," he adds.

Indian Summers is on Channel 4 at 9pm on Sundays

Indian Summers series two: The story so far…    

10 March 2015

Indian Summers returns to Channel 4 this weekend after its dramatic debut last year.

The period drama picks up in the summer of 1935, three years after the first series was set, and is expected to open with a terrorist attack against the British viceroy of India.

Ralph Whelan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), Alice Whelan (Jemima West) and Aafrin Dalal (Nikesh Patel) all return, along with the "Machiavellian manipulator" Cynthia Coffin, played by Julie Walters.

Here's what they were up to last season:

Unrest

Set in 1932 during the British Raj, the series began with the Indian civil service's annual move to Shimla, in the foothills of the Himalayas, to escape the summer heat. Cynthia welcomed newcomers to the exclusively white Royal Shimla Club, but ripples of discontent about British rule could be felt among the local community and an assassination attempt was made on Ralph, the viceroy's private secretary, in the very first episode.

Affairs

Ralph's sister Alice fell in love with young Parsi clerk Aafrin, who took the bullet intended for her brother. He survived and was given a life-changing promotion. Meanwhile, Cynthia matched up Ralph with an American visitor, Madeleine Mathers (Olivia Grant), but it emerged that he had a dark secret - a son, Adam, from a relationship with an Indian woman, Jaya (Hasina Haque), and they travelled to Shimla to see him.

Murder

Jaya was killed while she waited to meet Ralph in a secluded spot by a lake. Local Ramu Sood (Alyy Khan) was incriminated, but in the final episode, Ralph's servant killed himself and it turned out that he had killed Jaya in a moment of misplaced loyalty. In a bid to cover his own back, Ralph signed off on Sood's execution and let him hang, despite telling Aafrin he would try to have him freed. Disillusioned, Aafrin joined the revolution and offered to act as a double agent.

Indian Summers returns on Channel 4 at 9pm on Sunday.

Indian Summers: 'loved' character to die in series two

3 March

A main character is set to die when Channel 4's Indian Summers returns to our screens for its second series this month.

Speaking about the dramatic storyline, the period drama's creator and writer Paul Rutman told the Daily Express that a "loved" character will pass away, though he refused to reveal which one.

"We bring someone who I love - we love - right to the centre of it and see them die because of something that goes on," he said.

"It feels like you've got to do it. I think if you're telling a big story, it's important you don't hang on to everyone who you love and actually, it's part of the pain, part of the passage of time, part of a real cost."

The storyline around Julie Walters' character, Cynthia Coffin, is also set to get "darker" as more is revealed about her life and relationship with civil servant Ralph Whelan, played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes.

"I think a lot of people watching the first season wondered at that relationship and that sort of strange mother-son-ish thing and that is something that we really explore," he said.

"In the first episode, we see a lot of Cynthia the entertainer. Her story gets a little bit darker, much more personal as we go through - and in fact, there is a clue to the real nature of their relationship in the first episode of the first series."

The series one opener was watched by 2.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched drama launch for a show on Channel 4 since Elizabeth I in 2005.

Series two starts on Sunday 13 March.

Indian Summers returns for 'great reckoning' in series two

20 January

Channel 4's period drama Indian Summers returns for a second series this year and it promises to be just as dramatic.

Last year's first episode of the series, which is set in the British Raj of the early 1930s, when India was dreaming of independence, was the biggest launch for a UK drama on Channel 4 in more than 20 years. Series two returns to Shimla in the summer of 1935, three years later.

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The ten episodes will feature one viceroy's "last summer" and a "political gamble to stifle independence", says creator and writer Paul Rutman. There is also a "great reckoning" for Ralph Whelan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), Alice Whelan (Jemima West) and Aafrin Dalal (Nikesh Patel).

Ralph is now married to Madeleine (Olivia Grant) and the couple have a child, while Alice is continuing her affair with Aafrin.

Julie Walters, who plays "Machiavellian manipulator" Cynthia Coffin, is excited about the new series. "I can't wait to get back to the old girl," she told the Guardian. "There's some fantastic stuff to come in this series and Cynthia's naughtiness goes up several notches."

The trailer, which came out in December, shows a potential grenade attack and Cynthia pushing Ralph to become viceroy.

New faces include James Fleet, from The Vicar of Dibley, and Homeland's Art Malik, who starred in Homeland last year, along with Rachel Griffiths from Six Feet Under, who said she was "thrilled" to be joining the cast as the "intriguing and provocative" Sirene.

"I am sure she will have the mountain gossips aghast," she said.

Indian Summers is heating up: what can we expect next?

20 March 

The first series of the Channel 4 TV series Indian Summers reached its halfway mark last week with an 18th-century engagement party and a pile of secrets growing ever higher.

Ralph (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), the private secretary to the Viceroy, used the celebration of his future marriage to Madeleine (Olivia Grant) to create rifts among Indian communities, while his sister Alice (Jemima West) was sharing a romantic moment with his newly promoted Parsi head clerk Aafrin (Nikesh Patel).

"Things are stacked so precariously now, they really need only a push," says Rhik Samadder of The Guardian. "But who's going to do the pushing?"

Here are some of the questions that need answering over the next five episodes:

Who is Adam's father?

Episode six looks likely to focus on Jaya, the homeless mother of Adam who was hit by a train in the first episode. She stabbed him in the hand last week, promising to "make your father see". The Guardian's Rhik Samadder says his money is on Ralph being the father, although he adds that at this point he suspects Ralph of "being behind everything from Lord Lucan's disappearance to The Murder on the Orient Express".

Will Aafrin get in trouble?

It seems unlikely that Ralph will react well to Aafrin and Alice's after-party clinch in the rain, should he find out. He is also yet to let on that he knows about Aafrin's role in the disappearance of falsified evidence linking his would-be assassin to India's independence movement, although Aafrin has told Alice he is willing to confront him.

Will Ralph stay with penniless Madeleine?

Madeleine's brother Eugene has revealed to Cynthia that their family has no money. Will Ralph stand by her when he finds out? David Butcher at the Radio Times suggests the secret could be the "pivot on which the entire plot may be about to rotate". Eugene has already warned his sister that Ralph is using her, although her response at the time was "maybe I like it".

Who will die?

Channel 4's description of next week's episode reveals that Shimla's annual amateur dramatic production will be overshadowed by the news that a murder victim has been found in the river. Will it be an outsider or one of the characters we have come to know?

Will Alice's husband turn up?... Or is he already in Simla?

Alice is pretending to be a widow, but there are a few people in Simla threatening to expose her secret, including Sarah and a stranger who turns up in episode six. Andrew Allen at Cultbox says Alice's husband, who she apparently left in England, is "due a big arrival anytime soon". Or, he suggests, there could be a "far-fetched" twist on the cards. Ralph's wife-to-be Madeleine "visibly wrinkles in confusion as her fiancé affectionately plays with his sister's hair in a manner that's not purely sibling," says Allen. "Sure, Maddie has had all the hot and loud sex, but Mr Whelan has never given her as much carefully contained attention as he does his sister..."

Indian Summers: can 'bursting' secrets cure sliding ratings?

09 March

Channel 4's expensive Sunday night drama suffered its fourth successive ratings slide last night – despite excitement among critics about its characters' "bursting" secrets.

The show has been renewed for an additional ten-episode series, to screen in 2016, despite its audience dropping from 2.9m on launch night to 1.3m yesterday.But the viewers who did tune in were tantalised with further hints of secrets and deceit among the British colonialists.Ralph, the private secretary to the Viceroy, was looking ever-shadier, after his would-be assassin committed suicide in prison. Police discovered that Aafrin, the Parsi junior clerk who took the bullet for Ralph, has stolen a crucial piece of falsified evidence linking the attacker to the independence movement. But Ralph is yet to let on that he knows.Meanwhile, Sarah, the wife of cheating missionary Dougie, has learned Alice's secret – that her husband is not dead.The storyline has taken a "decidedly Machiavellian turn", says Neela Debnath in The Independent, as "everyone seems to be rather shady and power-hungry". She describes Ralph as a "slippery" British imperialist. "We really don't know what he is up to – and it's exciting," she says.Debnath says she hopes that there will be more from the Asian cast in future episodes after the latest instalment became a "bit too Downton-esque" at times.But she concludes: "Every character in Indian Summers has an agenda – just what that might be remains uncertain but it's brilliant for viewers because we never know where this show will take us next. The one thing we can be sure of is that the English colonialists were a manipulative, backstabbing bunch."The Guardian's Rhik Samadder predicts that Ralph has an "empire state-sized" secret corroding his "calculating" brain. "Time for it to come out, please," he says.According to Channel 4, Ralph tries to "take advantage of divisions among the Indian communities" in next week's episode, while Sarah puts Alice in a "very difficult" position."Secrets are bursting open," says Andrew Allen at Cultbox, "and very soon, the writing will be on the wall."

Indian Summers: is Channel 4's Sunday night drama worth a watch?

13 February

With a budget of £14m, Indian Summers is said to be the most expensive drama Channel 4 has ever commissioned. The new ten-part series about the birth of modern India in the 1930s starts next week, occupying the Sunday-night primetime slot previously dominated by ITV's Downton Abbey.

Its creators are already eyeing up another four seasons, if the first proves popular, taking the story through to the partition of India in 1947.

Here's what we can expect:

What is it about?

Indian Summers is set in the Himalayan foothills of Shimla, once the summer capital of the British Raj, in 1932 when India is dreaming of independence. The ten-part series tells the story of the decline of the British Empire and the birth of modern India – alongside an attempted assassination and a "tangled web of passions, rivalries and clashes", according to Channel 4.

Who is in it?

Julie Walters stars as Cynthia Coffin, the proprietor at the Royal Shimla Club, described by the Daily Mail as the "epicentre of the town's dazzling, though sometimes scandalous, social life". Walters says Cynthia can seem happy-go-lucky and jolly, but reveals that she is also a "Machiavellian manipulator".

The storyline focuses on three sets of siblings: the high-ranking Ralph and Alice Whelan (played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes and Jemima West); young Parsi Indians Aafrin and Sooni Dalal (played by Nikesh Patel and Aysha Kala); and American outsiders Madeleine and Eugene Mathers (played by Olivia Grant and Edward Hogg).

Is this another Jewel in the Crown?

Comparisons are already being made to other British dramas set in a similar period of India's history, including The Jewel in the Crown, the 1984 Granada series starring Art Malik and Tim Pigott-Smith. Creator Paul Rutman acknowledges that the story of the aristocracy at the height of empire has been told many times before, but says he wanted to shift the focus onto the ordinary people who made the administration tick and society swing.

"Empire is still something that many on the right are quietly proud of, but a source of deep shame and self-castigation from the left," he says. "With Indian Summers, I wanted to ride those contradictions. There's a generation that's dying out now for whom empire was a huge part of their lives, so I wanted to ask the question: what did we think we were doing out there?"

Is any of it true?

Rutman tells GQ magazine that the Royal Shimla Club is "entirely fictional" but he has tried to reflect "some of the real fault lines that were running through the empire at that time". For example, the club has a sign outside saying "no dogs and no Indians". Rutman says there were a number of British clubs that would not allow Indians entry. In Shimla, the police often used the excuse of a cholera outbreak to raid homes, as portrayed in Indian Summers, he adds.

The only real-life character in the show is Lord Willingdon, the Viceroy of India, played by Game of Thrones actor Patrick Malahide. Rutman was inspired by a hoard of photos dating back to the Raj, which he was shown in a Darjeeling hotel. "These were photos of people like us, 80 years ago, having tea parties and trying to recreate this idea of England in an environment that wasn't England," he says.

Filming for Indian Summers took place on the Malaysian island of Penang. Executive producer Charlie Pattinson said he found Shimla too modernised and built up, while the monsoon season would have also posed problems for filming. "On literally the last day of my location scouting, having considered Sri Lanka and travelled around a lot of India, Singapore and Malaysia, I went up Penang Hill and breathed a sigh of relief," says Pattinson. "These properties were in a time warp: they absolutely summed up the idea of the British transporting their identity to a foreign land."

Who will enjoy it?

The Mail suggests that fans of Downton Abbey are likely to enjoy Indian Summers, describing it as "Downton goes to India", although it adds that the script bears "none of the clunking bits of 21st-century slang that sometimes mar Downton". But creator Rutman thinks it has similarities to Mad Men. "Like the world of Madison Avenue advertising in the Sixties, the British Raj is strange and unfamiliar, despite the fact it's such an integral part of our history, with attitudes to issues like race and empire which now seem totally alien," he says.

When is it on?

Sunday 15 February at 9pm.

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