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Jewel in the Crown, The (1984)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Jewel in the Crown, The (1984)
Granada Television for ITV, 09/01-03/04/1984
1 x 120 min, 13 x 60 min episodes, colour
DirectorChristopher Morahan
 Jim O'Brien
Series devised byIrene Shubik
ProducerChristopher Morahan
AdaptationKen Taylor
Author of the Original WorkPaul Scott

Cast: Susan Wooldridge (Daphne Manners); Tim Pigott-Smith (Ronald Merrick); Art Malik (Hari Kumar); Geraldine James (Sarah Layton); Charles Dance (Guy Perron); Wendy Morgan (Susan Layton); Judy Parfitt (Mildred Layton); Fabia Drake (Mabel Layton); Rachel Kempson (Lady Manners); Peggy Ashcroft (Barbie Batchelor); Eric Porter (Count Bronowsky)

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India in the dying days of the Raj, from 1942 to 1947. Daphne Manners, a nurse recently arrived from England, forms an attraction to the English-educated Indian Hari Kumar. But their relationship causes tensions for those around them, and leads both towards tragedy.

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Based on Paul Scott's acclaimed Raj Quartet, The Jewel in the Crown (ITV, 1984) comes the closest to capturing the mood of the last days of the Raj than any of the several films and television dramas made on the subject in the early 1980s. It achieves this by choosing to concentrate on the politics of the time and a few well-etched, complex characters, instead of simply casting a nostalgic eye on the glory days of the Raj. Moreover, by avoiding overt criticism of British policy in India, and letting events speak for themselves, the drama manages to create a convincing portrait of a turbulent time.

Compared to Scott's fragmented, non-linear narrative, the production can seem conventional, forced to adopt a more straightforward structure to meet the demands of mass audience television. Perhaps because of this, the production managed to average more than 7 million viewers per episode; Critics and commentators heralded the programme as evidence of the rebirth of quality drama on British television.

The production's success owes much to its careful rendering of the three main characters. Ronald Merrick, as played by Tim Pigott-Smith, perhaps borders on a caricature of the quintessential stiff-upper-lipped, negative policeman, but his character gains some depth when he confesses that he is a grammar school boy who is constantly struggling to fit in with the Oxbridge types so common in colonial India.

Hari Kumar (Art Malik) is one such Oxbridge type, but he hates himself because he is, in his own words, "English and Black"; neither community accepts him. In an early scene, Hari is snobbish with Ronald when he is addressed in Hindustani (he can speak only English). But Hari's inbetweenness is precisely the reason that the naïve and curious Daphne (Susan Wooldridge) is attracted to him - he is English, but also exotic. As seen through Daphne's eyes, India on the cusp of independence is indeed a fascinating place, but one where disaster is always just around the corner.

Naman Ramachandran

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Video Clips
1. 'I don't speak Indian' (2:27)
2. Daphne and Hari (3:07)
3. An ordinary background (3:07)
Gandhi (1982)
North West Frontier (1959)
Flame Trees of Thika, The (1981)
Ashcroft, Dame Peggy (1907-1991)
Bux, Ishaq (1917-2000)
Clarke, Warren (1947-)
Dance, Charles (1946-)
Fenton, George (1950-)
Jaffrey, Saeed (1932-)
James, Geraldine (1950-)
Jeffrey, Peter (1929-1999)
Malik, Art (1953-)
Morahan, Christopher (1929-)
Puri, Om (1950-)
Segal, Zohra (1912- )
Shubik, Irene (1935-)
Granada Television
TV Literary Adaptation