In a new PBS series, “Beecham House,” acclaimed British Indian director Gurinder Chadha takes viewers back to a time before British rule in India when the Mogul Empire was on its last legs and unrivalled wealth was up for grabs.
The six-part epic starring Tom Bateman (“Vanity Fair”), Lesley Nicol (“Downton Abbey”), and Dakota Blue Richards (“Endeavour”) will air on PBS Masterpiece June 14 at 10/9c.
“Beecham House,” stated a press release, “showcases the culture, grandeur, and unbridled ambition of one of the greatest civilizations on earth at the end of the 18th century.”
The international cast also features Adil Ray, Pallavi Sharda, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Viveik Kalra, Roshan Seth, Gregory Fitoussi, Bessie Carter, Marc Warren and Leo Suter.
The series was shot largely in Rajasthan and Delhi.
Set in 1795, as the Mogul Empire is slowly losing its grip over a subcontinent it has dominated for the past two centuries, the story, according to its official synopsis, “focuses on the struggle to control the lucrative trade with India. One contender is France. The other is Great Britain’s East India Company, a private venture supported by mercenary troops. Three years before, John Beecham (Bateman) was an officer for the East India Company. Troubled by its rapine tactics, he quit. Since then, he has been trading as an honest private citizen, falling more and more in love with India and establishing strong local ties. Not incidentally, he has earned a small fortune and made influential friends. When Beecham appears at his newly acquired estate in Delhi, his entourage includes a mixed-race baby and its nurse, Chanchal (Pilgaonkar).”
The baby is not the only mystery. Beecham’s undisclosed reason for moving to Delhi sparks intense interest from resident French General Castillon (Fitoussi), not to mention Emperor Shah Alam (Seth) and one of the emperor’s kinsmen, Murad Beg (Ray), who happens to be Beecham’s next-door neighbor.
“The neighbor’s daughter has an English governess, Margaret Osborne (Richards), who is attractive, intelligent, unmarried, and also intrigued by the newcomer. The plot thickens with the arrival from England of Beecham’s overbearing mother, Henrietta (Nicol); her young traveling companion, Violet Woodhouse (Carter), who is Beecham’s childhood friend with intentions to deepen the relationship; and Beecham’s old army buddy Samuel Parker (Warren), now trying to restore his good name after being slandered in a trial involving the East India Company. Finally, rumor has it that somewhere on the subcontinent, Beecham’s dissolute younger brother, Daniel (Suter), is serving as an East India mercenary. Mix in greed, treachery, and amorous entanglements—plus the appearance of a mysterious woman whom Beecham believes is a risk to the baby’s life—and the stage is set for a gripping saga of far-flung adventure, suspense, and passion,” as per the synopsis.
“Beecham House” is co-created and written by Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges and Shahrukh Husain. Victor Levin (“Mad Men”) also serves as a writer on the series.