The Jewel in the Crown (TV series) explained

This article is about the 1984 television miniseries. For information about the 1966 novel on which it was based, see The Jewel in the Crown (novel) or Raj Quartet. For the Fairport Convention album, see Jewel in the Crown (album)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 by Paul Scott. Granada Television produced it for the ITV network.


The film was located in the fictional Indian city of Mayapore and is set during the 1940s against the backdrop of the last days of the British Raj and the Indian independence movement. Hari Kumar (Art Malik) is a young Indian man who was educated at the British public school (the term for a private school) Chillingborough and considers himself English rather than Indian. He works as a journalist in India, lives with his aunt, and becomes involved with a British woman, Daphne Manners. One night, Daphne and Hari are attacked in the Bibighar Gardens by a group of unknown men and Daphne is raped.

A lower-middle class British police officer, Ronald Merrick, holds Hari responsible for the rape and puts him in prison where he tortures him, even though he knows him to be innocent. Merrick's motives are twofold: he resents Hari's privileged education as well as the fact that Daphne preferred Hari to him (Merrick had previously proposed to Daphne and was rejected). Moreover, as becomes explicit in a later book of the series, Merrick is a repressed homosexual who is not consciously aware of his attaction to Hari. This story becomes the backdrop for a number of intertwining subplots during the end of the British Raj.

After Daphne's death in childbirth, another young British woman, Sarah Layton, becomes the central character. Like Daphne, Sarah is pursued by Merrick, but prefers his subordinate, Guy Perron. Sarah's sister, Susan, is married to the ineffectual Teddie Bingham, who is killed in an enemy attack despite Merrick's attempt to save his life. Merrick later marries Susan.

Hari Kumar is eventually released from prison, but rarely appears in the story. Merrick's activities are known by the authorities and disapproved of, and he dies in disgrace, although his sexual proclivities remain a secret from polite society.

The story line of the television series largely follows that of the novels. More detailed descriptions of the plots are available on the individual pages of the novels:

Production and reviews

The series made stars of Art Malik and Charles Dance. Other leading actors included Om Puri, 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, 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, and, thanks to a flashback in the final part, only Ronald Merrick (Piggott-Smith) appeared in every episode. 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.

It was shot on 16mm film, much of it on location in India. 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 is often mentioned in the same breath as Brideshead Revisited. In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, The Jewel in the Crown was placed 22nd.

Select Cast

Broader context

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) and A Passage to India (1984). The trend was spoofed on The Lenny Henry Show in the mid-1980s with a mock serial called The Jewel in India's Passage.

See also

External links