Film: The Jewel in the Crown

Cast includes: Geraldine James (Sherlock Holmes 2009), Peggy Ashcroft (A Passage to India), Art Malik (Sex in the City 2), Tim Pigott-Smith (Alice in Wonderland 2010), Wendy Morgan (Shine on Harvest Moon), Judy Parfitt (Little Dorrit), Rosemary Leach (Mission London)
Genre: Historic drama series, based on Paul Scott’s The Raj Quartet (1984)

In brief: Daphne Manners is the character who introduces us to life in India during the last years of the Raj… British colonial rule in South Asia (1858-1947). Innocent and full of optimism, Daphne is determined to make the most of her new life in India. After the death of her parents, Daphne moves to India… and soon finds herself living in the fictional city of Mayapore with her aunt’s friend, “Aunt” Lili. Unlike the old-timers, Daphne doesn’t know that Indians must be relegated to being second-class citizens… even well educated worldly Indians, like Aunt Lili… even Hari Kumar who was educated at Chillingborough in England and speaks only the queen’s English.

It seems so unfair, and Daphne thinks she can make a difference. But in the end, Daphne makes rather a mess of things. Befriending Hari turns out to have unfortunate consequences for both of them. And there are always Brits who make it their mission to keep “blacks” in their place. Ronald Merrick is certainly one of them… always irked by Indians who think they’re superior. Ronald’s inferior English education shouldn’t be an issue here in India… but it always is.

By the time we meet the Lathems, we understand the lay of the land. And so do they. Even the kind-hearted Sarah is careful not to let her personal feelings get the best of her and cause unpleasantness. But keeping her feelings and opinions in check isn’t always easy. Most of the Lathems and their extended family are “old India hands,” and they have no problem assuming the role of the superior ruling class… ma-bap… “I am your mother and your father.” It’s a common expression used to convey the relationship the English have with the Indians. But it’s a dysfunctional family at best. Despite the resentment that Indians have toward their colonial rulers, there’s a war on. And, at least until it’s over, everyone has to try and keep a lid on the tensions that have been building for decades.

There have been many wonderful Masterpiece Theater productions, but this is one that has held up better than most. The aspects of the production that feel dated aren’t distracting. In fact, they tend to give the series a feeling of 1940s authenticity. Many scenes have the look and feel of a beautiful old 40s postcard. The story is intricate and wonderfully developed and will transport you to an era that thankfully has ended… and sadly has ended.

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

Popped kernels for the excellent story, script, acting, production, character development and historic interest. They don't get much better than this.

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