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Archive for August, 2022


Ramu Sood (Alyy Khan) being brought out to be hanged (he is absolutely innocent of any crime and everyone knows this)

Dear Friends and readers,

A few days ago I provided a framework, perspective, synopsis and then summaries and commentary for the first half of the first season of the superlative Indian Summers. Now we turn to the second half of the first season, dominated by the mysterious murder of Jaya (Hasina Haque) from having been stabbed and drowned (by whom we are not quite sure even at the end of the season). The accusation is imposed on Ramu Sood; we watch how this comes about, the trial, and its conclusion in the British power murdering Sood.  They have colluded to exclude from evidence that Ralph Whelan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) was Adam, her boy’s father and stood to lose everything if Jaya persisted in following him about with the son. It’s not that the idea that the parentage of Adam is the key to the murder simply does not surface.  This truth is repressed by those who know and lies about Sood are provided as a distraction from Ralph.

It’s shocking even today as it is made plain the British are doing this to rid themselves of a wealthy, proud “trouble-making” landlord.  We listen to several characters tell Sood’s one full supporter, Ian McCleod (Alexander Cobb), it does not matter if Sood is guilty or innocent. Sood is the kind of person the British want dead. They resent — Cynthia had already thrown Ian out of the club for working for Sood — and fear him. Sood tells McCleod the moral of his story is “keep your head down” if you are not a white and powerful male.


Jaya and Adam – she persistently abducts Adam from the missionary school where he was taken after rescue in the first episode so as to bring Adam before Ralph

Within this over-arching story, we watch Aafrin Dalal (Nikesh Patel) become bitterly disillusioned with Ralph. At the end of the season Aafrin realizes that Ralph will do nothing to prevent the gov’t from hanging Sood. Aafrin had assumed that Ralph would recommend mercy in the form of a prison sentence and then leniency in later years to cut down the sentence. Ralph at first writes a letter to that effect, but Ralph, after letting it stay publicly on his desk, destroys it and instead lets the death penalty take its course immediately. We also see the full criminality and viciousness of Cynthia’s (Julie Walters) character, who beyond lying on the stand to convict Sood, is responsible for the death of Eugene (Edward Hogg) Mathers, Madeleine’s (Olivia Grant) beloved brother and plots to persuade Olivia to return to the US and never return (despite Ralph’s determination to marry Olivia in order to give some moral pattern to his existence). Ian McCleod (Alexander Cobb) emerges as a hero risking all to try to save Sood, and when he does not, siding with the Indians to rally viscerally against the injustice in a funeral.

I admit I had not realized that WETA has placed online recaps of all the episodes of the first and second seasons, and left them available (here is one place you can reach these), but as these are not easy to click on in chronological order and are told neutrally (though concisely, concretely, accurately) I will carry on providing summaries and evaluations of the series.

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Episode 6 brings together all the threads we had come to understand in a violent open near murder by Ralph of a Irish soldier-hunter, Captain Billie Farquhar (Jamie McLaughlin), a character out of Kipling, because Farquhar is threatening Alice (Jemima West) with blackmail (she can pay him off with sex). We also see in a memory flashback the death of Jaya — who dies screaming, screaming. Her body shows multiple stabs (plus much abuse from earlier years as an outcast beggar).

Jaya had started to show herself, to come to Ralph’s house and with Adam, their son; he goes to her and proposes that if she agrees to go somewhere else, he would support her, but he appears to do nothing about this.  Leena Prasad (Amber Rose Revah) as the missionary teacher who loves Adam repeatedly wrests Adam back from this half-mad mother: Java threatens the boy, puts him at risk; she confides to Ralph that beyond her life in the streets, all she has known from men since Ralph abandoned her has been abuse. At the end of Episode 6 Jaya is apparently waiting for Ralph by the river (it seems like an appointment was made) and looks eager and then (apparently it’s not Ralph) because this person is doing something which horrifically frightens her, and next thing we see her drowning and screaming.

A second thread is that of McCleod’s relationship to Ramu Sood. Jaya has strayed into Sood’s house and finding a woman’s beautiful wedding clothes in a closet, takes them and puts them on.  These turn out to be Sood’s dead wife’s dress, and he becomes very angry. Sood is a lonely man who sits on his porch, half asleep with a gun across his knees — we learn in the trial his wife had died in childbirth. The gun shows he feels that his life is continually under threat. Now it was McCleod who, sorry for Jaya, let her work in what were McCleod’s uncle’s and are now Sood’s tea fields. McCleod’s good nature and naivete contribute to the tragedy.  Sood had looked at her impersonally and thought she would not be an effective worker and felt she might bring trouble. By this time Sood is training McCleod and they are working together.

In David Gilmore’s The British in India (cited in my first blog on Indian Summers) Gilmore says that a disproportionate number of Scots people came to India for work and became successful businessmen working closely with the Indians. We see the two men forming a friendship, Sood training McCleod: a mentor-father relationship forms. They sit and drink and Sood tells of the beggar woman and wedding dress.  Sood invites McCleod to stay, but McCleod insists on going home alone and hears the screaming nearby at the river — having seen Sood on the porch waving to him a few minutes before.


Farquhar’s first appearance: he is showing the ladies the head of the snake which he just killed

A separate thread is the discomfort and on again off again relationship of Alice and Aafrin. The absence-presence of her husband, Charlie, looms again. Irish Captain Billie Farquhar (James Maclachlan) comes out of nowhere to shoot and kill a snake who terrifies Madeleine, Ronnie Keane (Rick Warden) and maybe frightens Alice (Jemima West), all taking a sort of stroll in the bush (as it were). He is Irish, and presents himself as a mountain climber needing permission to climb the Himalayas. We are told this climb is extremely dangerous physically, and it quickly emerges that in fact Farquhar is not there to climb these mountains: when Ralph gives permission, Farquhar suggests Ralph wants to get rid of him. He reveals he is a friend of Alice’s husband, Charlie, and soon Alice is again in a abject position. She is susceptible to bullying; is bullied continually by Sarah Raworth (Fiona Glascott) who also knows of the marriage and her flight, and threatens to reveal she is not a widow but has (in law) kidnapped her son.


Sarah and Alice — this frenemy relationship is continuous — Alice is actually the friend of Leena, and tries to help at the missionary school

Ralph watches from afar, at first thinking Alice is “leading Farquhar on,” and when she denies this, Ralph literally throws Farquhar down the stairs, bashing Farquhar’s head on a wall in such a way as possibly to cause a serious concussion. Farquhar leaves in haste, but not before he has threatened to tell Charlie what actually is the condition of Alice and reminded her the boy belongs to the father.

A lighter note: Dougie Raworth’s (Craig Parkinson) keeping to his wife, puts her in a better temper and we see her for once on a roof accepting drink from her son and husband (playfully) instead of enacting incessant bitterness, aggression and pride and snobbery, envy, and spite.

That Ralph can risk murder of Farquhar shows his violence. We see him remove Madeleine from tea at one point and he forcibly in effect rapes her from the back (buggers) her and we see her submit to the pain (no pregnancy would happen). Then Ralph’s close servant, Bhupinder (Ash Nair) goes after his wife, Sumitra (Anitha Abdul Hamid?) who is Alice’s servant and nanny to Alice’s baby son, Percy — from the back, but she has the courage to refuse him and run away. We do see Ralph grieve over Jaya’s body in the morgue, but continue the lies he does not know who she is.

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Complicity would be a perfect title for S1, Episode 7. We see how Superintendent Rowntree (Guy Williams) leaps on McCleod’s naive bringing forth of information about a link between Jaya and Ramu Sood — specifically her taking his wife’s wedding dress and his anger over this — to accuse Sood of premeditated murder. Then the complicities slowly emerge:


Ian (Alexander Cobb) in his flat realizing he has been badly used

It takes time for Leena to realizes Raworth is holding back information which might help Sood: Raworth and she both know that Jaya was Adam’s mother, but more importantly that Ralph is the father. Raworth keeps saying he is not telling to protect Adam; but the reality is he is afraid to expose the Private Secretary for fear of reprisals. Ralph has sent him a huge check for the school (soon after Jaya began to be seen around the compound). Our respect for Raworth ought to go way down: his abjection before his wife is matched by his cowardice before British authorities.

Cynthia keeps up the drumbeat of false stories, including that Sood killed Armitage, when it was Armitage who attacked Sood. But then (like Leena slowly about Raworth) I realized Cynthia suspected Ralph did it and he suspects her. So Sood is a screen for both of them. (What do they care about him?) Aafrin seems as yet indifferent to what is happening in the trial, caring only that the Muslim girl (Sati) he found himself engaged to (through his father’s behavior) lied to him and endangered his position as a trusted Parsi among the whites.

Sood cries after being beaten into confession — as he says his crime was to behave as if he were equal; he should have kept his head down and not taken over the tea plantation. It ends on Ralph also (yet another person) telling McCleod it’s no use to offer any alibi, you will not be thanked. I did not realize that the whites and the passive obedient Indian community really meant to hang Sood when they knew it was a false charge probably because such a program as this would have poetic justice (so I thought).


The players — one of the more savagely ironic stills in the series

There is a play within the play going on: the British are putting on Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, with Cynthia as Lady Bracknell. Events happening within the play and the behavior of the players to one another reveal their characters and parallel events leading up to the trial. Cynthia tries to win McCleod back by welcoming him into the club and giving him a major part in the play (one she removes from Eugene Mathers out of spite), but he gradually sees through this and returns to the police to tell what he saw and insist he is Sood’s alibi. The large analogy (not obvious and thus probably lost to an American audience) is that Cynthia is Lady Bracknell and cares intensely about Ernest, who in this paradigm would be an allusion to the orphaned Ralph.

The larger event referred as happening off stage is Ghandi’s threat to go on a hunger strike and Ralph objects to staging the play as bad politics (the British will look bad); but the Viceroy (Patrick Malahide) who has a major role, and is much flattered throughout, insists the play go on (in effect he threatens Ralph with loss of his position). Ralph fears this ignoring the suffering of thousands and Ghandi’s symbolic recognition will cost them the parliamentary votes they need. Viceroy laughs at him.

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Episode 8: The Trial. The first time I watched the framing (very weak) and then trial and conviction of Ramu Sood, I didn’t realize quite how “guilty” was a foregone conclusion. The Indian judge had never for a moment considered coming up with a “not guilty” verdict. I admit that still I couldn’t take in that in the next episode this innocent man would be killed before our very eyes.


Raworth suddenly standing up at the trial, stopping Leena (whose POV we are in) from giving evidence that Ralph Whelan is Adam’s father

Some striking moments: Raworth protected Ralph Whelan so closely and then sent back Ralph’s check. Raworth cannot face his own lack of integrity, but to send the money back is as useless (one might say) as both Ian and Leena’s evidence on behalf of Sood in the trial. When Raworth signals to Leena on the stand that she should not utter Whelan’s name that made her evidence no evidence. She has come courageously to the Indian lawyer to tell him that Adam is Jaya’s son and that an important part of the evidence is who the father is. But on the stand she does not identify Ralph. She also made the mistake of criticizing Jaya (ironic that this is used against her). The Indian lawyer on behalf of Sood, suggests that she herself might have murdered the boy because she so yearned to be Adam’s mother, and then the unscrupulous British lawyer repeats the idea. So she is triply betrayed: by both lawyers and in effect by Raworth. Raworth fails Leena as McCleod does not fail Sood. Now whether telling the truth would not harm Leena, we cannot know ….

The worst villainess of the piece is Cynthia Coffin — ruthless, supposedly for Whelan, she ceaselessly blackens Sood. When it’s insinuated that Raworth might be Adam’s father, she says oh no, it was Armitage — no sleaze is beneath her. She (we realize wrongly) fears that Raworth might tell the truth were he accused – and the accusation is obvious when he stands up in the trial to stop Leena’s evidence. I probably should reread The Importance of Being Earnest to understand Lady Bracknell’s full relationship with Ernest; it is parallel with Cynthia’s with Ralph. She has now consigned Eugene to an early death by putting him in her club basement because she wants to get rid of both Mathers people and find for Ralph a much wealthier wife.

I did begin to feel there is misogyny in the way Cynthia is continually fingered as so powerful and so cruel. Sarah Raworth’s behavior reinforces this misogyny. She seems to vomit during the trial when Raworth stands up to defend Leena – all she cares for is is she acceptable by these racist imperialists. She comes home after the trial exposes Raworth and Leena has having some relationship to Jaya and Adam, and she rages at Raworth on the grounds she will now be stigmatized and excluded again. She tells him how boring, boring are his sermons. Against this is that when Aafrin breaks with Sati and tries to reach Alice, we are to feel for Sati who now will have her reputation utterly compromised — so not a misogynous script.


Sooni seated by the Indian lawyer; the snide insinuating English lawyer badgering Sood to confess …

Also the character of Sooni (Aysha Kala) shows us a feminist paradigm  — as does the story of Alice who has no rights or power or ability to earn an income it seems.  Sooni supports Sood, helps the Indian lawyer, gets McCleod to the court sober to give his evidence on behalf of Sood. Sood tries to persuade Ian not to give evidence; Sood pretends hostility to Ian, and insults him, and in Ian’s emotional hurt, Ian runs off to get drunk. Sood is the unselfish good man — who understands the way the Raj works but (as he said) assumed he could be an exception. We see him on the stand treated disrespectfully and played with by the lawyer — and realize the full extent of his personal tragedy: a man who lose a beloved wife and child only a few months ago.

It’s not an overtly violent, over dramatic ratcheted up drama — it is utterly believable.  At the end the last shot of the episode is of Ralph’s feet. The British lawyer used as evidence incriminating Sood that a filthy old sandal was found near the river. The lawyer scoffed at the idea a British man could wear sandals. But could this be Ralph’s sandal? We are given a clue here: the sandal was in too bad a shape to be Ralph’s. So who could the murderer have been if not Ralph, and an Indian man? Stay tuned.

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Cynthia justifying herself to Ralph …


As Sood is taken to his death, Ian jumps up and attempts to hug Sood, and stop this killing — very moving moment

See the comments for Episodes 9 or “Secrets Out”, and 10: Temporary Resolutions and the Hanging of Sood.

In another week or so I’ll write about the second season. For now Indian Summers might be considered an answer to the critiques of The Jewel in the Crown. Here we genuinely see the Raj from several different Indian POVs, and its power and cruelty are before us. It also much to its credit gives us a deeper sense of the permeations between England and Indian culture — no matter how hard the English tried to insulate themselves, they cannot. The little instruments are here too: it’s also the first one I’ve seen showing how ostracizing someone from the club could be used. Without the club, Ian has no friends, no where to go. These ever so civil upper class types, high cultured, are a bunch of ruthless murderers. But all are equally capable of evil and harm. An Indian man comes up to Aafrin and lets him know he knows about how Aafrin stole the document — he is demanding money to stay silent. I became intensely involved with all the characters; part of my grief at the cancelling of the series was to lose their presences and their full stories over the projected 50 episodes.

Ellen

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Julie Walters playing Cynthia Coffin, mistress of Ceremonies, hypocritically welcoming everyone to the club, her right-hand man, Kaiser (Indi Nadarajah) by her side

Noticeably: the kind of motifs, themes, and some character types you see in 19th century Anglo-Indian books and still in EM Forster and Paul Scott are not here (rape of white woman not central, but rather badly mistreated Indian women – murdered, imprisoned, no sneaky sly non-white characters but rather relentless white corrupt officials …) — a modern Anglo-Indian set of stories

Dear Friends,

Six years too late. How typical of me. I first watched the first Poldark series twenty years after it aired (1995 when I began to read Winston Graham’s books). Indian Summers aired for two years (or two seasons), ten episodes each from 2015-2016 when it was unfortunately cancelled, supposedly for not high enough ratings. Indian Summers is astonishingly even-handed: it is the first Anglo-Indian film to dramatize centrally the stories and characters of as many Indian characters (Parsi, Muslim, Hindu) as it dramatizes Anglo white (English, Scottish, American, some Australian, one Irish) characters. It candidly shows the cruelly unjust behavior of the white characters in front of us to the Indian ones. Jewel in the Crown, fine as it was, does not come near this. It’s superbly acted, fully realized production values (as this is put), beautifully written complex dialogue, on location (or near enough).

I’ve been watching and re-watching it for several months – I bought it when I began to prepare for the Anglo-Indian novels course I gave in two places this past spring 2022. I felt so sad when it came to an end and I realize that several threads were developing towards the second season, and (from the second feature at the end of that season before the series was cancelled), the series was supposed to be fifty episodes or five seasons, covering the period from 1932 to 1947: the first season was set in 1932, the second 1935, the third was going to show us the characters another three years later.

If it has a fault, it was that it introduced the character too slowly, allowing them only gradually to present their full selves and predicaments, the way we meet characters in complex novels, requiring that you re-watch to get the full and ironic significance of earlier episodes in the first season. Several of the Netflix commentaries include complaints and puzzlements because viewers did not understand what was happening until they reached later episodes and one must remember that at the time streaming, and having available all episodes at once to watch and re-watch as we do today was not common then.


Paul Rutman speaking of the Parsi family in the show

There are other problems in trying to write about it. Since it was cancelled after two years, and there are no books for a fan base to rally around, I have had a hard time finding out anything substantial about it. For example, I suspect it’s based on a novel sketched out by Rutman or several found by him (a kind of composite), but cannot prove it without some evidence. Here is a rare column on it: The thematic aim of the series is to lay bare the repressive policies and laws of the British gov’t that ruled India before Independence. This idea shapes and holds the several story lines together. Paul Rutman’s wife is from the sub-continent; he taught there in 1993; later he visited and lived there; after the topic was suggested to him, he read many many books (he cites histories and memoirs). He became convinced the relationship between the two umbrella cultures (there are more cultures in Indian than the upper class English/Scots and Parsi families the series centers on) is of vital importance for understanding Indian history and India and later 19th century UK and the UK until recently. He was drawn to the mood of nostalgia he found in these writings, and stories of people fighting for individual and group survival.

Too many years have gone by to retrieve it (sometimes the producers relent and a series is revived within 2-3 years), the only hope would be to do it again with different actors, and TV and film techniques and dramaturgies have moved on again. As with the Poldark seasons, and Foyle’s War (and other series I’ve written about here and on Austen reveries), I thought perhaps the best thing I could do to draw attention to it once again, for its own sake (watch for enjoyment and what you can learn about India) and to encourage other films of this type, is to retell the stories. The full complex depth, and empathy one can feel for the flawed central character of Cynthia Coffin, played magnificently by Julie Walters, takes two seasons to develop …

One becomes intensely involved with most of the characters, whether you love, identify, laugh at, cry for or hate them: a friend told me he hated the chief white male, Ralph Whelan (played by Henry Lloyd Hughes). I felt his Parsi counterpart, and subordinate, by the end brother-in-law, Aafrin Dalal (played by Nikesh Patel) was the series’ true hero.


The two men shaking hands when Whelan first hires and promotes Dalal to be his chief clerk and secretary (a general dogsbody for Whelan who is private secretary to the viceroy)

I can’t do it episode by episode since they are not self-contained (like the Foyle’s War ones and many of the Outlander episodes) and you only understand what you were watching in the first when you get to say the fourth (the second season this is no longer a problem and when new characters are introduced, they are somehow explained as much as they need to be right away).

The first season, Episodes 1-4. The first opens with a group of people seen on a train, all on their way to an Indian station near or in Simla, the summer retreat of the upper class British leaders. We see a half-caste child (part Indian, part white) whom other Indian children are throwing stones at, who seems homeless and ends up putting himself on the train track (thus inviting death). The train stops in time, and the child is rescued by a white missionary, Dougie Raworth (Craig Parkinson) and an Indian woman we later learn works for him in a school as a teacher, Leena Prasad (Amber Rose Reevah). They take him into the missionary school and think up a name for him: Lazarus is too obvious, and they chose Adam. What we learn by the fourth episode is this child is Ralph Whelan’s illegitimate son by a village girl whom he loved but never married, Jaya (Hasina Haque), now a homeless beggar, thrown out of her birth-place. On the train we meet Dougie’s racist wife, Sarah, a mean petty coarse nasty woman (Fiona Glascott), whose son rides next to her.

We also meet Alice Whelan (Jemima West) on her way “home” from England with her young baby son; we learn quickly she is fleeing a British husband, and seeking the love and protection of her brother: another key moment to this episode is when she climbs the stairs of the family mansion, Chotipool, and the two embrace. We are introduced to the racially segregated society of the club, with our first impression of Cynthia as the crude amoral, if hard-working, manager of the summer activities centered in the club building called the Royal Simla Club (“no Indians or dogs allowed,” says the sign).


The reasonable intelligent Dalal father (Roshan Seth), too much a compromiser though) and the mother (Lillette Dubey) whose world-view is narrow but passionate, a woman of integrity

This first episode also introduces us to the Dalal family before us — Parsi, pro-British, the most family-like conventional (warm) group of people for the first few episodes. Aafrin is shown as still under parents’ control and yet supports them. Aafrin thinks that he is in love with a Hindu girl, Sati (Elllora Torchia). He has a sister, Sooni Dalal (Aysha Kala) who in the series is the Indian romantic heroine, a sort of counterpart to Alice whose life has taken a bad turn by the time we meet her. Several of the young men in the series will fall in love with Sooni. Two older brilliant actors are the parents (see just above). An assassin following Whelan confronts him, with a gun, and in a scuffle shoots Aafrin in the chest; Aafrin would have died but that Ralph gets Cynthia to organize an ambulance and take Aafrin to the hospital. Aafrin and Alice’s love affair begins when she comes to the hospital to visit this man who saved her brother.


Sooni with Ian McCleod (Alexander Cobb), a Scotsman who gradually emerges as humane just man fighting for vindication of Ramu Sood (Alyy Khan), literally murdered by the British because he gets in their way as a landowner who thinks he has rights ….

The episode ends with Ralph having dinner on a porch at Chotipool, and carelessly, ruthlessly fucking Madeline Mathers (Olivia Grant), an American woman there to find a husband. Cynthia has enabled this relationship under the wrong impression the Matthews are rich, and when Cynthia finds out she relegates Madeleine’s crippled desperate and beloved brother, Eugene (Edward Hogg) to a room where he contracts typhus and dies (at the end of the first season). Madeleine’s character develops relative to Ralph and Cynthia’s story the way Sarah’s does Dougie and Leena’s (who share outlooks, goals, and love one another) so they remain secondary if complex important characters.

Of Episodes 2 through 4, it’s enough to say the action and scenes develop the characters we have been introduced to, with new ones adding on. The political realities and some of the characters’ secrets are gradually revealed; the literal circumstances of their lives and nuances in characters thickened. For example, we meet Ian’s maternal uncle, Armitage (I can’t find a first name), played by Richard McCabe, a drunken, overtly bigoted owner of a tea plantation, whom Ian has come out to help; the plantation is doing so badly and so much in debt to Sood that we see Sood take it over in the season, much to the uncle’s rage; the uncle attacks Sood when Sood asks him for money owed, and Armitage dies of a heart attack brought on by his own alcoholism and violence. Eventually Ian is excluded from the club when he protests the hideous treatment of Sood (who is even accused of attacking Armitage when it was the other way around), and, together with Sooni, joins protest demonstrations on Sood’s behalf after Sood is hung. In the second episode there are climaxes in the hospital and over Adam running away; we see Jaya and realize she is following Ralph and, from his POV and that of loyal Indian servant, Bhupi (Ash Nair), endangering Ralph’s reputation and career, his standing.

In the third episode, Sooni involves herself in a radical, revolutionary demonstration supporting an Indian woman’s speech (Nalini Ayer) and ends up in prison; the theme of the speech is that the idea that something is better than nothing is worse than no enfranchisement at all. Sergeant Rowntree recommends beating the people taken into prison. Alice visits the Raworth school which lacks all sorts of essentials and becomes friendly with Leena. Aafrin learns to ride horse so as to join in on the British way of life (what Ralph wants); Indians in suits watching are intimidated by Ralph standing next them; Ralph invites Aafrin into the club (!) for drinks. Raworth is all abjection in front of the endlessly gardening obnoxious Sarah who does not want the son, Matthew, to go to her husband’s school or a “ghastly” fair at the club (because they are low ranked people); she takes advantage of her husband by put-on crying about how she lives so far away from everything (I realize some viewers would sympathize with her).


The Viceroy is the center of all parties, with Cynthia the endless jolly entertainment (it’s an act)

In the fourth episode, we meet the Viceroy, Lord Willingdon (Patrick Malahide) who is not in himself a bad man, but goes along with all that the UK gov’t deems necessary to dominate and extract as much profit as possible from India and the Indians. He has a sour sense of humor: Am I the only one here without a martyr complex left over from 1857 (he asks)? There’s a mixed race (but all upper class) dinner party with everyone all dressed up: Aafrin explains his family came from Persia centuries ago; Eugene claims the Mathers family got out of the stock market before the crash.


Ralph as Louis XIV and Madeleine as Marie Antoinette — it is not uncommon among the super-rich for people to dress themselves extravagantly as royals of the past (in NYC at the turn of the century robber barons and their families did this)

Episode 5: Ralph’s engagement party to Madeleine where they dress up as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. A number of threads are now also developing minor characters and side stories, some of them epitomizing, some interesting in themselves. I emphasize how Cynthia in this episode emerges as a basically murderer — she is spreading as truth the idea that Ramu Sood killed Armitage; she is threatening McCleod with banishment from the club if he works for Sood (who tells McCleod he wants him for his name and as a decent manager); she has discovered the Mathers are broke (she will steathily attempt to undermine and destroy Ralph’s engagement); Ralph says he is not sure he loves Madeleine. We see he has a mother-son relationship with Cynthia; in the second season we learn both are badly in debt, with Ralph much more deeply in.


Ralph (Henry Lloyd Hughes) and Cynthia (Julie Walters) in an unguarded moment, confiding …

Leena is a Cinderella who finally puts on a dress to go to the ball (a party at the club to which she as a teacher at Raworth’s school can come) but retreats because she truly loves Raworth and does not want to distress him. His awful wife, Sarah, has discovered Alice is married, and by threatening to expose her bullies Alice continually: we see how susceptible Alice is to cruelty. The club secretary, Ronnie Keene (Rick Warden) is a sycophant who has shown that nothing is beneath him is in the later episodes of this season attracted to Sarah and she to him.


Leena Prasad (Amber Rose Revah) at the school — in season 2, she is sent to prison for 9 years after a proposed new viceroy sexually harasses her and Ralph’s son, Adam, fiercely loyal to her set him on fire ….

Ralph manages to get an untouchable accepted into the club assembly — Ralph is a complicated ambiguous character whose larger political vision includes an aim of integration with the Indians since he personally regards India as his home (his family has been there for generations — this did happen) and does not want the British to give up central power over India. He is trying for a India bill which he thinks might lead to unification through nationalism (not to divide the religious groups); what stands in his way among other things are the 600 princely states (and the story of these will be embodied in the second season).


Alice and Aafrin later in the first season, very much drawn to one another

Dalal’s father suddenly seems to allow Aafrin to love Sati — he is far more reasonable than the Dalal wife-mother whom Sooni has not yet broken from — I am wondering how much he suspects Aafrin is attracted to Alice and this is a ploy to stave the Alice affair off — and an open English and non-Indian connection. The episode ends with Aafrin and Alice kissing in the gardens (party going wild now), while Bhupi kicks out the nervy Jaya and Adam (trailing around after Ralph). Sati we know destroyed a letter which Aafrin gave her to give to Sooni to get rid of evidence in the Dalal home that Aafrin sometimes works with Indian rebels in ways that undermine Ralph.


This summer house in Penang, Malaysia was filmed as the British Hill station in Simla (see a slideshow of all the houses & places used)

To be continued …

Ellen

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Marion Halcombe (Jessie Buckley) and Laura Fairlie (Olivia Vinall) hugging for dear life (2018 Woman in White) — a double self

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve written a blog on the difficulty of adapting Wilkie Collins’s novel, The Woman in White, into a modern movie, and shared my syllabus for this just past summer course on Sensation and Gothic Novels, Then and Now, to wit, Collins’s The Woman in White, and Valerie Martin’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I’ve taught myself an enormous amount (compared to what I knew say when I wrote my last blog about the difficulty of filming Collins’s novels), and was exhilarated, riveted, and fascinated by Collins’s book. The people in my class seemed very interested, all who came were doing the reading (plus they all read Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde) and liked the two movies I screened (2018 Woman in White, Fiona Seres, 1996 Mary Reilly, Stephen Frears [and Roman Polanski’s script altered]), and I told them about the revealing updating in the 1997 Woman in White, Pirie and Fywell).

Now often when I finish reading and teaching a brilliant book, I write an essay-blog on it here (or Austen reveries); in this case I decided, the better contribution to an understanding of this book would be to share the calendar I constructed for the book while I was reading it I will also share the Table of Contents I made, which we used to anchor class discussions.

One of the books I read in for the course is Jenny Bourne Taylor’s In the Secret Theater of the Home: Wilkie Collins, Sensation Narrative, and Nineteenth Century Psychology where Taylor argued that the striking sense of many-layered personalities impinging on one another that the novel conveys derives from its subjective narrative devices, of which they are many. Woman in White is very like Richardson’s Clarissa, an epistolary narrative: what Taylor implies is the deeply subjective, violent, nightmarish, and whatever other dreams erupt from our reading these juxtaposed journals. Taylor is anxious to show us how psychologically and socially insightful are these patterns of human behavior.

At the same time I became aware that Anthony Trollope’s famous mockery of Collins’s method in Trollope’s Autobiography was not an exaggeration. Trollope had been correct to say that Collins “constructed” everything in his novel “down to the minutest detail” so that different parts of the story adhere consistently to a calendar and can be plotted or dovetailed consistently across the book. And it does really matter if something “happened at exactly half-past two o’clock on Tuesday morning; or that a woman disappeared from the road just fifteen miles before the fourth milestone.” If Laura Fairlie was seen alive in London after she was declared dead, then there’s proof she still exists, and the tombstone lies.

But while both recent editors and an editor from the 1970s discuss the dating of the characters’ journals in the novel, none of them actually sketched the calendar out itself. That’s what I’ve done. It is, alas, too long for a single or even double blog, and since Jim’s death, I can no longer add documents to my website, so I put the calendar itself on academia.edu, and am writing this blog to alert the fan-lover-reader of Wilkie Collins’s book (and any scholar who may find it of use) that it’s up there. My hope is people wanting to understand the book will find uses for this calendar the way many readers have my calendars for Jane Austen’s novels.

A Calendar for Wilkie Collins’s Woman in White

Although I was forced to label this analysis of the underlying patterns of the novel a “draft,” it is not. Nor is it a published paper, nor a paper for an academic conference, but a working document, a document to work with as you read and study and write about Wilkie Collins

Curiouser and curiouser, I noticed that all three of my editions of The Woman in White, the 1999 Oxford, ed John Sutherland, the 1999 Penguin, ed Matthew Sweet, and an older 1974 Penguin, ed Julian Symons lacked a table of contents! Well I can supply that in this blog too:

An outline of The Woman in White, using the Oxford World Classics, ed Sutherland 1998/9; and then Penguin, ed Matthew Sweet 1999 (in parentheses)

Preface to present edition p 3-4 (p 6) (Sweet edition has 1860 preface, pp 3-5 too)

1 Walter Hartright, pp 5-127 (pp 9-126)

Subdivisions

Anne Catherick’s warning letter, pp 78-79 (pp 79-80)
Mr Fairlie’s letter of dismissal, pp 110-11 (pp 110-11)

2 Vincent Gilmore, lawyer, pp 127-62 (pp 127-62)
3 Marion Halcombe, pp 163-97 (pp 163-95)

Subdivision

Hartright’s farewell letter, on way to Central America, burnt by Marion pp 185-86 (p 183)

Second Epoch, p 198

1 Marion Halcombe (Cont’d), June 11,1850, pp 198-343 (pp 196-335)

Subdivision

William Kylie’s letter, which Marion destroys, Oxford pp 273-74 (Penguin pp 268-69)
Visions of Walter Hartright – 4, ruined temple, forest, stranded ship, a tomb & veiled woman Oxford Sutherland pp 278-79 (Penguin pp 273-74)
AC’s letter: she has been seen AC’s letter: she has been seen Oxford Sutherland 303 Penguin p 297

2 Count Fosco, pp 343-44 (pp 336-38) – Postscript to Marion
3 Frederick Fairlie, pp 345-64 (pp 338-56)
4 Eliza Michelson, Housekeeper at Blackwater Park, pp 364-407 (pp 357-98)

Subdivision: Fairlie’s note now produced Sutherland p 392 (Penguin 383)

Several Sort of Narratives

5 Hester Pinhorn, Fosco’s cook, pp 407-13 (Ann Catherick’s death as Lady Glyde’s) (pp 399-404)
6 Doctor’s certificate, p 413 (p 404)
7 Jane Gould (prepared corpse), p 414 (p 405)
8 The Tombstone, p 414 (p 405)

9 Walter Hartright (Cont’d), pp 414-19 (406-11)

Third Epoch

1 Walter Hartright (Cont’d), pp 420-540 (pp 412-528)

Subdivisions
Marion Halcombe’s story, pp 422-39 (pp 417-30)
From Count Fosco’s letter telling of how Anne Catherick in asylum claims to be Lady Glyde p 425 (416-17)
Mrs Vesey’s letter p 445 ( p 436)
Fosco’s threatening letter, pp 457-58 (447-48)

2 Mrs Catherick’s letter, pp 540-53 (pp 528-40)
3 Walter Hartright (Cont’d), pp 553-614 (pp 540-597)

Subdivision
Note to Pesca, from Walter, open by 9 am tomorrow, then act p 594 (p 580)

4 Count Fosco’s narrative, pp 614-29 (pp 598-616)
5 Hartright concludes, pp 629-43 (pp 613-626)

On my TrollopeandHisContemporaries listserv at groups.io, we are planning to read Collins’s No Name this coming winter; I am now listening to The Moonstone read aloud by Peter Jeffreys (brilliant) and have added Collins to my list of authors to be read, and reread and studied, and read about. I did love his Rambles Beyond Railways the first time I read it: he goes round about and meditating what he sees and hears in Cornwall. I recommend Catherine Peter’s biography of Collins (see review by Jim Kincaid) and Taylor’s Cambridge Companion

Ellen

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