There is one scene towards the end of the second episode of Indian Summers that has a couple of characters dancing while two others watch on, temporarily detached from their worries. The sequence cuts back and forth to a rather more sombre, darker event. The show once again flippantly, yet effectively, plays both sides of the dramatic coin. Some of these characters think they can shake off their potential woes. The film-making proves they can’t.
Shadowing his scenes with a greater air of villainy, Ralph (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) takes it upon himself to visit the very man who attempted to shoot him. There is obviously more to their relationship than meets the eye. Ralph takes a small beating for his efforts. The Indian “terrorist” later cuts his own throat, seemingly closing the door on any further plot revelations on his part. Earlier Ralph appears to think he is capable of some clout – “Meet fire with fire until Ghandi and the rest of the congress are subdued” – but an assassination attempt with a motive suggests he is very vulnerable.
Meanwhile, Sarah (Fiona Glascott) is longing openly for some affection from her husband Dougie (Craig Parkinson) instead of him rushing off to help with the kids at the school. The now almost invisible wife also tries to be BFFs with Ralph’s sister Alice (Jemima West). She, too, is still filled with mystery. Why has she returned to India? Why is she not answering the questions about her personal life, particularly those about her husband? Naturally, we are curious as well. As Sarah pokes around through chitchat, there are no apparent photos of Alice’s husband – at one point assuming him dead. She does not mean any harm, but this is really none of her business. So, in the true meaning of inquisitive drama, long may this persist.
Having taken the bullet meant for Ralph, Aafrin (Nikesh Patel) is making a slow recovery but may be suffering infection from his clothing – the material of which is also something sacred to the culture. Ralph later has his photo taken with the on-the-mend clerk to make him look good in the local media much more than acquiring a friend (like he gives a damn about Aafrin’s well-being). Aafrin’s father wonders where his son might be as the larger family seeks to protect his weak heart by hiding the news of his son’s shooting. How long do you think that lasts?
As various sub-plots emerge or develop, we find that, in spite of their respective positions in society at that time, it is still the Indian people for the most part that carry the lion’s share of dignity. And they appear to hold the more charisma and respect too. They are still in a struggle though, largely emphasized by the school of children – one such child, Adam, goes missing and is found self-inflicting pain. This is unquestionably a heart-breaking moment and a blunt reminder of the general turmoil in the area.
Indian Summers still keeps us at arm’s reach but feeds us strands of the drama through the bars of its television cage. After all, this is only episode two, and the narrative continues to mix jollities with high drama. There is another steamy scene – this time in the bath – between Ralph and the American Madeleine (Olivia Grant), a courtship semi-manufactured by Cynthia (Julie Walters) to aid Ralph’s stature. And once again is it lit so vividly, shimmering glows sitting on faces or hands or unsettling in the background, that even in its growing intensity and struggles you somehow still long to be there.
It is such an extravagant, gorgeous production so far (and previews of forthcoming episode only confirm this), it might just be holding our appetite forcing us to beg for more. Time will certainly tell whether or not it ultimately delivers on the succulent promise.
In the UK, Indian Summers Episode Two aired on Sunday, Feburary 22. This and Episode One are both still available on Channel 4 On Demand. Check the website for details.