8.6/101 Votes Alchetron
10/10 The Digital Fix
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 14
Networks PBS, ITV
Original language(s) English, Hindi
First episode date 9 January 1984
|Created by Christopher Morahan
Paul Scott (novel)|
Starring Art Malik Geraldine James Saeed Jaffrey Peggy Ashcroft Charles Dance Tim Pigott-Smith Eric Porter Susan Wooldridge
Running time 13 hours (52 minutes per episode; first episode double-length)
Awards Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film
Cast Charles Dance, Tim Pigott‑Smith, Art Malik, Geraldine James, Peggy Ashcroft
The Jewel in the Crown (1984) is a British television serial about the final days of the British Raj in India during World War II, based upon the Raj Quartet novels (1965–75) by British author Paul Scott. Granada Television produced the series for the ITV network.
The serial opens in the 1940s in the fictional Indian city of Mayapore, against the backdrop of the last years of the British Raj and the Indian independence movement. Hari Kumar (Art Malik) is a young Indian man who was educated at 'Chillingborough', a British public school (the British term for an elite private school); he identifies as English rather than Indian. The bankruptcy of his father, a formerly successful businessman, forces him to return to India to live with his aunt.
Working as a journalist, Kumar sees that his position is lower in India, where he is discriminated against by many British colonists and held in some suspicion by Indian independence activists. He becomes involved with a British woman, Daphne Manners (Susan Wooldridge), who does not share the prejudices of most of her people. One night, after Hari and Daphne make love in the public Bibighar Gardens, at the same time that violent anti-British demonstrations are taking place elsewhere in the city, the couple are attacked by a group of unknown Indian men. Hari is beaten and Daphne is raped showing that not only the British opposed relationships across ethnic boundaries.
The local Indian Police superintendent is Ronald Merrick (Tim Pigott-Smith), a young Englishman who is intelligent, hardworking, and from a lower-class background. He had made advances to Daphne during her first months in India and been politely but firmly rebuffed. He arrests Hari for her rape, holding him in the local jail, where he beats and sexually humiliates him. Merrick resents Hari's privileged education and he resents Daphne's preferring the young Indian to him. Because Daphne refuses to cooperate with the investigation, the police do not prosecute Hari for rape. But Merrick arrests Kumar and a group of young, educated Indians, sending them to prison for detention without trial under the security regulations adopted to deal with suppressing the Indian independence movement. Word that Hari was tortured causes outrage in the Indian community. Merrick is transferred from Mayapore to a smaller and less important town in the province.
Daphne learns she is pregnant. She chooses to believe the father is Hari, though she can't know whether it is he or one of the rapists who is the father. She dies in childbirth. The mixed-race child, a girl, is taken in by Daphne's aunt, Lady Manners, widow of a former provincial governor. While Lady Manners takes the infant to the resort area of Srinagar, she meets Sarah Layton, a young British woman on vacation with her mother and her sister Susan. Sarah and Susan's father is the colonel of the Indian Army regiment in Pankot, a hill station near Mayapore. He is being held as a prisoner of war in Germany, where his unit was captured. Susan and their mother prefer to stay away from Lady Manners due to the scandal of her great-niece's illegitimate birth, but Sarah pays a call on Lady Manners and the two women become friendly.
Sarah and her family soon encounter Merrick, who has left the police and procured a commission in the Indian Army. Teddie Bingham (Nicholas Farrell), an Indian Army officer and the fiancé of Sarah's sister Susan, is stationed in the nearby princely state of Mirat; Merrick, also assigned there, happens to share quarters with him. Because the unit is soon to leave for the border with Burma, Teddie and Susan have to marry in Mirat. When Teddie's best man for the ceremony becomes ill, he asks Merrick to step in. Merrick, seeing a relationship with the upper-class Teddie and the Laytons as a means to career advancement, is pleased to help. While Merrick and Teddie are driving to the ceremony a stone is thrown at their car, slightly injuring Teddie. Merrick understands that he was the target of the attack, as this is one of a series of incidents suggesting he is being harassed because of his treatment of Kumar and the other suspects in the Manners case in Mayapore.
Soon after the wedding Teddie and Merrick leave for the Burma front with their unit. Teddie is soon killed in an ambush by soldiers of the Japanese-sponsored Indian National Army (INA). Merrick is badly wounded trying to get Teddie to safety and is evacuated to a hospital in Calcutta. When Sarah visits him (at Susan's request) to thank him, she learns that his arm is to be amputated and that his face will be permanently disfigured by burn scars. Merrick reveals to Sarah that Teddie was ambushed because of him. Teddie had left their unit to try to persuade two Indian soldiers of his regiment, who had been captured by the Japanese and joined the INA, to surrender and come in. Merrick believes Teddie took this risk to prove to him that the Indian soldiers, even after becoming turncoats, would resume their loyalty to the British if given the chance. Faced with losing his arm and being left permanently disfigured, Merrick's hostility against Indians has increased.
Lady Manners presses to gain a formal inquiry into the arrest and detention of Hari Kumar. It is conducted by Nigel Rowan (Nicholas Le Prevost) an aide to the governor of the province. Only during the interview does Hari learn that Daphne is dead. After Rowan establishes that Hari was tortured by Merrick and there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by him, he arranges the young man's release from prison. No action is taken against Merrick, however.
After his convalescence, Merrick is promoted and assigned to intelligence activities concerning the INA and Indian soldiers who collaborated with the enemy. He comes across the Laytons again in Bombay, where Sarah is reunited with her father, Colonel Layton, just released from a German POW camp following Germany's surrender. Merrick is there to interrogate an Indian soldier who had served under Colonel Layton and assisted the Germans after Layton's unit was captured, and who has been deported to India. Merrick gains assistance from Sergeant Guy Perron (Charles Dance), a young Cambridge graduate and Indian history scholar, who was serving with an Intelligence Corps Field Security unit; he speaks fluent Urdu and is asked to observe the interrogation. Merrick learns that Perron also attended Chillingborough, and happened to know Hari Kumar when they were students.
After the interrogation, Perron runs into Merrick and Sarah Layton by chance at a party. He accompanies them to the apartment of Layton's aunt, where Sarah and her father are staying temporarily. Sarah and Perron are attracted to each other. Merrick decides to have Perron assigned to assist him in further investigations of Indian soldiers who became collaborators. Perron and Sarah both find Merrick distasteful, but Perron has no choice but to work with him.
After the death of her husband Teddie and the difficult birth of their son, the young widow Susan Layton Bingham suffers a mental breakdown and is treated in a hospital in Pankot. When Merrick returns to the Pankot area while working on his inquiry into collaborators, he starts to court Susan and ultimately marries her. Perron later learns that Merrick blackmailed a young British hospital clerk into giving him access to Susan's medical records, apparently to learn about her mental state and use this material to persuade her to marry him. Her sister Sarah dislikes Merrick and is opposed to the marriage, but she is unable to stop it.
With the surrender of Japan in 1945, the war in the East is ended, and the days of British rule in India are clearly numbered. Perron arranges a quick exit from the Army and returns to Cambridge and his academic career. Due to his imminent departure, he and Sarah must suspend their relationship. The Layton parents plan to return to England. Merrick intends to stay on, having gotten a contract from the government of Mirat to reorganize their police force.
In 1947, with the transition to Indian independence under way, Perron returns to India as an historian to observe the process. Visiting Mirat at the invitation of its Chief Minister, Count Bronowsky, whom he met briefly on his last trip to Bombay, Perron learns that Merrick has died, apparently as a result of a riding accident. The situation in Mirat is tense due to conflict between Hindus and Muslims related to independence. Bronowsky tells Perron the real story behind Merrick's death. He relates that Merrick died in the course of a sexual rendezvous with a young Indian man who was probably employed by independent activists and who was believed to have let in an assassin who killed Merrick. The authorities cover up the details of Merrick's death, fearing reprisals from the Indians in this time of political uncertainty regarding British departure. The two discuss their view that, in leaving India, the British are opening up "Pandora's Box," releasing the ancient competition for power between the Hindus and Muslims, who had earlier conquered and ruled the country. Some confrontations had been restrained by the power of the British as rulers.
Sarah, Susan and their aunt attend Merrick's funeral in Mirat. Perron decides to accompany them on the train back to Pankot. Joining them is Ahmed Kasim, the educated son of a prominent Muslim politician who has been working for Bronowsky in Mirat for the past few years. En route to Pankot, the train is stopped by a gang of Hindus, who attack Muslim passengers in retaliation for recent attacks on Hindus in Mirat. The attackers demand that Kasim be turned over to them. Before his fellow passengers can react, Kasim voluntarily leaves the train car and surrenders himself to the attackers, who murder him. Perron, Sarah and the other English passengers are unharmed, but are horrified by the slaughter of Kasim and other passengers.
Before leaving India again, Perron visits Hari Kumar, now living in a poor neighborhood and supporting himself by tutoring Indian students in English. He leaves his card as Kumar is out. Perron reflects on how Kumar was caught in an impossible position, between England and India.
The following titles are as given on the DVD release. The first episode is double-length (105 minutes). All others are 52 minutes.
The series is based on the Raj Quartet novels by Paul Scott:
While the novels are written from different characters' viewpoints and move back and forth in time, the adaptation places events in roughly chronological order.
The series was shot on 16mm film, much of it on location in India. All filming not from India was filmed at Manchester's Granada Studios. The programme was often screened from grainy prints, but was fully remastered for its 2005 DVD release and ITV3 screening, resulting in much better picture quality.
The series made stars of Art Malik and Charles Dance. Other leading actors included Peggy Ashcroft (who won the BAFTA Best TV Actress award for her performance), Tim Pigott-Smith, Geraldine James, Judy Parfitt, Rachel Kempson, Eric Porter, Susan Wooldridge, Zohra Sehgal, Saeed Jaffrey, and Karan Kapoor (son of Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal). The complexities of the plot ensured that no one character was at the centre of the action throughout. All four "Best TV Actress" nominations at that year's BAFTAs went to stars of the series, with Ashcroft winning over Wooldridge, James and Parfitt. Pigott-Smith won Best TV Actor.
In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes compiled by the British Film Institute in 2000 and voted by industry professionals, The Jewel in the Crown placed 22nd.
According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications there was "a cycle of film and television productions which emerged during the first half of the 1980s, which seemed to indicate Britain's growing preoccupation with India, Empire and a particular aspect of British cultural history" . In addition to The Jewel in the Crown, this cycle also included Gandhi (1982), Heat and Dust (1983), The Far Pavilions (1984) and A Passage to India (1984).
Mini-series co-star Charles Dance has commented how it has a devout following to this day. "I think that aired here in 1983, and there are people still to this day who assemble in each other’s houses and have Jewel In The Crown weekends and watch all 14 hours, mostly in America," he told Attention Deficit Delirium. "I have people stopping me in the street now saying that they watched Jewel In The Crown again a couple of months ago, and I think, 'Bloody hell, did you really?' So I’m known to that generation for a completely different type of work. The current film and television viewing audience is much younger, and the kind of things that I’m known for are these rather off-the-wall, slightly villainous characters in fantastical film and television things, but that’s okay. It’s better to be looked over than to be overlooked in my business."
In contemporary reviews, John J. O'Connor of The New York Times wrote, "the careful accumulation of marvelous detail is never less than fascinating. And once again in a British production, the performances are rarely less than extraordinary... What emerges in the end is a comprehension of India far more convincing than the posturings of a Rudyard Kipling and far deeper than the tightly focused biography of a Gandhi. The Jewel in the Crown is not only engrossing television. It is important television, a model of what the medium can do." Jeff Jarvis of People magazine called it "first-rate; the settings are stunning. It does a masterly job of making you care about its characters and what happens to them. That is what a mini-series is supposed to do, and Jewel does a spectacular job of it. It is this year’s best fictional mini."
In reviewing the box-set video in 2010, Alexandra Coghlan of The Guardian wrote the series, "sits alongside Brideshead Revisited as the high-water mark of 1980s British TV."