1 9 8 4 (UK)
3 x 100 minute episodes
Channel 4 produced this £8 million star-studded romance in 19th century Raj India which told of an earnest, dependable young British army officer, Ash Pelham-Martyn (Ben Cross), in service with the elite Corps of Guards.
Because of his Indian upbringing, Ash found himself torn between the British and Indian cultures, and his forbidden love for former childhood playmate Princess Anjuli (Amy Irving) added to the torment.
On a wider stage, political intrigue and civil unrest led to battles galore, with the series combining real and fictional characters – most notably in depicting the disastrous aftermath of the 1879 Treaty of Gandamak in which the members of the Kabul mission were massacred due to the intransigence of Sir Pierre Cavagnari.
Cavagnari is played here fairly convincingly by John Gielgud despite being forty years too old for the role.
The series was adapted by Julian Bond from a novel by M.M Kaye and attracted criticism for the politically incorrect casting (as Indians) of such disparate international actors as Christopher Lee (British), Rossano Brazzi (Italian), Omar Sharif (Egyptian) and, in the crucial role of Princess Anjuli, the blue-eyed American actress Amy Irving.
The strangeness of this decision is particularly noticeable in the many scenes she shares with Sneh Gupta, who plays Anjuli’s half-sister. It led Salman Rushdie to excoriate the production, calling it a “‘blackface minstrel-show”‘ and “‘the purest bilge”‘.
Ashton “Ash” Pelham-Martyn
Major Sir Louis Cavagnari
Lt. Wally Hamilton
The Rana of Bhithor
Major Jenkins (Commandant)