YAY!!! In episode 4 of Indian Summers, they introduce the Viceroy, Lord Willingdon. He makes an exciting entrance in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Everyone is bowing or curtseying as it drives down the street. The sense of excitement and anticipation is high.
Meet the Viceroy
The Viceroy himself is pretty excited. He is extremely fond of Ralph (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) and wastes no time in hunting him down. Lord Willingdon isn’t even dismayed to not find Ralph at work, “so much the better, we’ll surprise him.”
Ralph, however, is very surprised since he is in his bedroom with Madeleine Mathers (Olivia Grant), an American woman he has been closely attached to. Ralph recovers quickly and ensures that the syce (Indian term for groom) is notified in case the Viceroy wants to ride, and that they have coffee ready, “that bitter Nilgiris stuff he likes to drink and complain about.”
Anyway, after Ralph has a little discussion about whether or not the Mathers will be leaving (Madeleine’s brother Eugene (Edward Hogg) is growing impatient), the Viceroy comes stomping up the path, “couldn’t get the car up the bloody road.” The servants all bow close to the ground. It is an incongruous sight because the Viceroy is only interested in Ralph, calling him “my boy,” with open arms. I thought he would hug Ralph, but instead he just claps him on the shoulder. Stiff upper lip and all that, I guess. 🙂 There is a huge amount of affection in the scene, and it is obvious the Viceroy is truly happy.There is a sweet moment where Lord Willingdon proves Ralph right about the coffee, “now, you can get your chap, if he’d like to get up, to bring me some of that dreadful South Indian coffee you enjoy so much.” I like that bit a lot. The “chap” he is referring to is Ralph’s butler/valet Bhupi (Ash Nair), and I felt kind of bad for him having to bow so low to the ground. But, it shows that the Viceroy, who appears to be unaware of all those around him bar Ralph, completely gets his surroundings. He might seem a little dotty with his unbridled affection for Ralph, but don’t be fooled.
A Fun Game of Golf
Later the Viceroy is playing golf with Ralph, Ralph’s assistant Ronnie Keane (Rick Warden), and Aafrin Dalal (Nikesh Patel). Mr. Dalal is the young Indian clerk who inadvertently took a bullet intended for Ralph. There are loads of questions as to why someone would want to shoot Ralph, but for right now Mr. Dalal is being fast tracked to a potential Head Clerk position.
As is customary, Dalal bows before the Viceroy, but he’s having none of that, “Any man who stands before a bullet, I think can look me in the eye, don’t you?” The Viceroy is immediately impressed with Mr. Dalal saying “he has the look of a teacher…Mr Whelan’s very own Munshi. So much the better, Mr Dalal. We need all the education we can get.” I think there might be some foreshadowing there.
After all that, the Viceroy takes a nice swing at the golf ball. I know nothing about golf, but I’m sure he has a very fine form. He is in excellent shape and his golfing outfit is a lot nicer and more subdued than Ralph’s colorful combo.
While Aafrin struggles with his ball, the Viceroy and Ralph stand aside having a little conversation. The Viceroy’s spies have told him that there is a young lady on the scene. That would be Madeleine. Ralph initially tries to downplay it, but the Viceroy points out (by asking) Ralph’s age. He’s 30 and seems a bit put out that the Viceroy didn’t immediately know that since he’d been to Ralph’s “birthday tea.” Awwww. I’m sure the Viceroy knows exactly how old Ralph is. “Still, 30 years…A serious age.” Ralph is smart enough to pick up the hint and promises to introduce Madeleine. Mr. Malahide really shows how caring and canny Lord Willingdon is. He is affectionate, but he is also firmly pushing Ralph in a certain direction.
Male Bonding and Politics
The Viceroy and Whelan must have done a spot of shooting because in the next scene they are plucking game birds for Ralph’s upcoming dinner party. Male bonding at its finest. It is a neat scene with a lot of political discussion. The Viceroy has been in London discussing reform and democratization plans for India, and he wants Whelan involved. The Viceroy believes all the different religious and cultural groups of India need representation. Ralph asks if that includes the “Untouchables”. The Viceroy: “Yes, but…Gandhi’s dead against. He wants all Hindus marching under one flag.” The Viceroy does a very cute Gandhi impression there. It seems he is no Gandhi fan.Ralph has been doing a little plotting of his own. He suggests inviting the Untouchables’ leader Dr Ambedkar. The Viceroy looks very thoughtful. I love the way his mustache twists with his mouth. 🙂 “Invite them up. There’s no harm in making overtures. The Prophet of Peace presumes to speak for all India. Let’s see if we can’t break things up a bit, hmm?” Such a harmless little “hmm” at the end, but it is so full of provocation. 🙂
White Tie Time
The Viceroy arrives for Ralph’s party to meet Madeleine the heiress. He is accompanied by a group of attendants, one whose job it is to hold a bright, yellow brolly over the Viceroy’s head to shield it from the sun. They didn’t have sunscreen back then. Again, the Viceroy makes a rather noisy entrance bellowing out “where is she?” Ralph whispers to Madeleine to “charm him, like you charmed me,” though he warned her not to grab him in the library. Why ever not? Spoilsport Ralph!
The Viceroy is in his adorable Dotty Uncle mode as he inquires “which is which”, indicating Ralph’s sister Alice (Jemima West) and Madeleine. As the introductions are made Madeleine makes a very beautiful curtsey, but the Viceroy doesn’t stand on ceremony when it comes to those Ralph cares for. “Up, up, up!” He’s heard all about the lovebirds and says that his wife Marie, the Vicereine, calls Ralph her “special case.” He is being so sweet and Patrick Malahide plays it wonderfully with his expressive blue eyes being used to their full effect. Of course, viewers know that both Ralph and Madeleine are full of secrets and dark mystery, so the Viceroy’s open honest affection is a contrast.
But, the Viceroy is not a dotty uncle. As mentioned before, he’s a canny man who sees everything. Aafrin arrives to the dinner party in a smart suit instead of formal evening attire. (And all DS Chisholm fans sympathize with the young man.) 😉 Ronnie Keane (Ralph’s assistant) calls Aafrin “Munshi” (referencing the Viceroy’s earlier analogy) and laughs at his suit. Ronnie is a funny character, but he is also a total jerk. The Viceroy, who is chatting with Alice, is obviously disgusted by the laughter. Alice looks distraught towards Aafrin (she is besotted with him), and the Viceroy’s gaze appears to go to her. I wish the camera hadn’t been so low because I can’t be 100% sure about that part. Fortunately, Ralph makes the save and greets Aafrin offering him a drink, and the Viceroy and Alice continue their conversation.
During dinner, a beautifully lit scene, the Viceroy inquires about the Mathers’ family business. They were in steel and, supposedly, their father got out in time just before the stock market crash. I’m pretty sure they are lying about that. Meanwhile, poor Aafrin, who is inexperienced with formal British dinners, is being teased as he awkwardly tries to explain that he didn’t intentionally save Ralph’s life. Well, he didn’t; the shooter just missed. It is an uncomfortable moment, but Alice rescues him by changing the subject to Aafrin’s family background. His ancestors were originally from Persia. “Parsis. Sound business sense,” intones the Viceroy, wanting to help make Aafrin feel comfortable.
I want to cover a quick non-Viceroy moment since it is integral to the next scene. In a previous episode, Aafrin stole and hid a forged document linking the shooter to the Indian National Congress movement. The authorities are now searching the homes of everyone who had been in the office the day it went missing which includes Aafrin’s home. He hastily excuses himself from the table to write a note asking his girlfriend Sita (Ellora Torchia), who waits for him nightly in a cemetery, to get his sister to deal with it. Alice, knowing something is up, goes to him and he gives her the letter. However, Sita is Hindu, and always made unwelcome by his mother. Sita does not deliver the letter.
A Good Old Fashioned Song and Dance
When Aafrin returns to the dinner he is intercepted by Ronnie. The Viceroy is eager to sing “Jessie’s Dream” and Ronnie wants Aafrin to play the “murderous sepoys” so as to save Ronnie from having to “black up.” Charming. Poor Aafrin has no choice but to go along.
The next scenes are brilliant. The Viceroy is singing away, and he has a pretty good voice too, as Madeleine is serenely perched on the piano enjoying the music as she plays the dreaming Jessie. Ralph and Aafrin act out the sword fight with their umbrellas. Ronnie interjects to criticize Aafrin’s lack of enthusiasm as the others laugh. However, the Viceroy isn’t laughing. He turns his back in disgust at Ronnie’s rudeness. Scenes of the searchers hunting through Aafrin’s secret treasure chest looking for, and finding, the document are cut in with the action of the song, including the death of Aafrin’s sepoy!
It is really well done and the Viceroy and Ralph are very cute and funny as they sing and dance with their umbrellas. Everyone, other than Aafrin, is having a fantastic time.
But now the party is over and the Viceroy is all tuckered out and drunk as he sleeps peacefully (although probably uncomfortably) on Ralph’s sofa. Ralph gently wakes him up. “Gerard?” Gerard is the Viceroy’s son who died in the war. The look on his face when he realizes it is Ralph is heartbreaking.
He wistfully tells Ralph that he is glad to be back in India. “London’s too much for me nowadays. There’s a beggar on every street corner. And they don’t seem to care for us any more. Our own people. There’s no fight, no optimism.”
But, the Viceroy still has some fight. He firmly rejects Ralph’s and Aafrin’s assistance in helping him walk out as he continues talking, “They want us out of here. I told ’em, too bloody bad.” You tell’em, Viceroy! He leaves the house gazing up to the night’s sky. He seems pleasantly awed by it. Ralph bids him good night and he replies, “Yes, good night. You’re a good man, Whelan. Just like your father.”
And that is it, the first real look at the Viceroy. It is such a good one too. He comes across as very energetic, but with just a touch of vulnerability as he sees the world changing around him. He acts a bit like a dotty uncle to Ralph, but it is clear he is also hyper observant and very aware of all what is going on around him. He is very intriguing, but he is also one of the few characters in this enigmatic production who is unafraid to say the truth. Almost everyone else has secret motivations and unrevealed pasts, but he seems so open and honest. Of course, he gets to be the bluffest one because he is the Viceroy.
He also makes a few brief appearances in the previews for episode 5. One is at what appears to be Ralph’s and Madeleine’s engagement party. The other is where he looks to be having a disagreement with Ralph about the Hindus role in democracy. I can’t wait!