Following their massive success with Brideshead Revisited Granada TV in the UK were the kings of the lavish mini series, following up Brideshead would not be easy but they found the perfect subject in Paul Scott’s Raj quartet. The Jewel in the Crown traces the lives of a group of Britons and Indians during the 1940’s in India at a time of growing civil unrest not only with world war II at the forefront but through to Indian independence in 1947.
Chief amongst the large cast of characters is Tim Piggott-Smiths contemptible Ronald Merrick, a police officer who wasn’t above fitting up an innocent Indian for a crime (most notoriously by framing Art Malik’s reporter Hari Kumar for the rape of hospital worker Daphne Manners played by Susan Wooldridge) also central to the story are The Laytons who help advance proceedings from 1942 Mayapore to the massive change of Indian independence.
Stunning in every regard, from its sumptuous and detailed set design and location filming to the superlative cast at the peak of their careers from Piggott-Smith to Charles Dance’s Sgt Guy Perron and Peggy Ashcroft’s legendary missionary Barbie Batchelor.
The Jewel in the Crown (the Jewel being India of course in the crown of the British Empire) was a massive worldwide success winning an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for best drama series, it was a hugely expensive series for Granada to make (freak weather conditions in India and a fire at the UK studios didn’t help ease the financial aspect either) but it is all there on the screen.
The initial idea for the series came from Irene Shubik who had worked with Paul Scott on the superb Staying On some years before, “creative differences” meant that Shubik walked away from the production but without her it wouldn’t have happened.
Much of the location filming took place in the cities of Udaipur, Mysore and Simla. Much of the Indian filming took place without incident, apart from locals trying to get into shot but back in the UK one of the locations used for interiors, a warehouse in Manchester, was burnt to the ground, many important props along with it.
The production also marked something of a first for ITV and Channel 4 too with the two networks contributing funding and working together for the first time. This arrangement saw each episode premiere on ITV on a Tuesday night with a repeat on Channel 4 the following Sunday.
Memorable moments: Follow Merrick’s unashamed social climbing as the series unfolds, although there’s a nasty shock for the repellent captain mid-way through. Also look out for Warren Clarke’s turn as camp Corporal ‘Sophie’ Dixon.
In the episode The Mughal Room, Sarah Layton and Guy Perron spend Guy’s last afternoon exploring the Governor’s summer residence, with seven minutes going by without any dialogue.
Trivia: Although much of the filming took place in India, Salford Dock in Greater Manchester doubles as Bombay. The drama took four years to produce and film and cost £5 million – that’s about £12m in today’s money.
It was voted into 22nd place in the British Film Institute’s 2000 list with Pigott-Smith and Peggy Ashcroft also winning Best Actor BAFTAs.
The original series was shot on 16mm film and has been fully re-mastered.
UK / ITV – Granada / 1×120 minute episode / 12×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 9 January – 3 April 1984
Writer: Ken Taylor / Developed by Irene Shubik / Novels: Paul Scott / Music: George Fenton / Producer: Christopher Morahan
Tim Pigott-Smith as Merrick
Art Malik as Hari Kumar
Susan Wooldridge as Daphne Manners
Geraldine James as Sarah Layton
Judy Parfitt as Mildred Layton
Peggy Ashcroft as Barbie Batchelor
Charles Dance as Guy peron
Eric Porter as Count Bronowsky
Rosemary Leach as Aunt Fenny
Wendy Morgan as Susan Bingham
Anna Cropper as Nicky Paynton
Nicholas Farrell as Teddie Bingham
Rachel Kempson as Lady Manners
Nicholas Le Prevost as Nigel Rowan
THE EPISODES 9 January – 3 April 1984
1. CROSSING THE RIVER (9 Jan 1984)
2. THE BIBIGHAR GARDENS (10 Jan 1984)
3. QUESTIONS OF LOYALTY (17 Jan 1984)
4. INCIDENTS AT A WEDDING (24 Jan 1984)
5. THE REGIMENTAL SILVER (31 Jan 1984)
6. ORDEAL BY FIRE (7 Feb 1984)
7. DAUGHTERS OF THE REGIMENT (14 Feb 1984)
8. THE DAY OF THE SCORPION (21 Feb 1984)
9. THE TOWERS OF SILENCE (28 Feb 1984)
10. AN EVENING AT THE MAHARANEE’S (6 Mar 1984)
11. TRAVELLING COMPANIONS (13 Mar 1984)
12. THE MOGHUL ROOM (20 Mar 1984)
13. PANDORA’S BOX (27 Mar 1984)
14. THE DIVISION OF THE SPOILS (3 Apr 1984)