This two-DVD set includes interactive menus, a scene index, production notes, and a Kaye biography and book list. Originally released for television in 1984, The Far Pavilions has inspired viewers to travel to India, plus it has been included in numerous university courses because of its postcolonial and multicultural themes. This film will appeal to viewers interested in postcolonialism or Indian history and culture as well as anyone who loves a good romance. --Tara Chace
Born to British parents but raised as an Indian boy, Ashton Pelham-Martyn returns to India as a young military officer, where he fights both local unrest and the cultural prejudices of Anglo society. Struggling to reconcile his place in two different worlds, he finds happiness with his childhood sweetheart, Indian princess Anjuli (Irving)—but she is promised to marry another man. From the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas to the fabled palaces of Bhithor, M.M. Kaye’s evocative novel is brought to life in this stunning and lavish production.
The all-star cast also features Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings), Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia), Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding), and Sir John Gielgud (Gandhi).
Episode 1: Return to India, Part One After a tumultuous childhood in India and schooling in England, Ashton Pelham-Martyn takes a post with the British Corps of Guides on India’s northwest frontier. There he struggles to reconcile his Indian upbringing with his place in Anglo society, and he courts the beautiful Belinda Harlowe.
Episode 2: Return to India, Part Two After returning from Afghanistan, Ash is transferred to a desk job with an army regiment. He finds a good friend in Wally but clashes with the other officers. As punishment for a brawl, Ash must escort a caravan of princesses to be married—including Anjuli, his childhood playmate.
Episode 3: The Journey to Bhithor, Part One Prince Jhoti arrives to accompany the procession and brings with him Biju Ram, Ash’s old enemy. When an attempt is made on Jhoti’s life, Ash tries to discover the saboteur in their midst. Meanwhile, his feelings for Anjuli deepen, even though she is en route to wed another man.
Episode 4: The Journey to Bhithor, Part Two The procession arrives at Bhithor, where negotiations with the rana do not go well. Forced to camp in a militarily indefensible position, the convoy seems to be at the prince’s mercy, but Ash has a few tricks up his sleeve. He also urges Anjuli not to marry the rana.
Episode 5: Wally and Anjuli, Part One Ash returns to Mardan, where the Corps of Guides has been fighting across the border. British envoy Cavagnari signs a treaty with Afghanistan’s emir and establishes an embassy in Kabul. Wally leads a force to secure the legation, while Ash accepts an assignment to spy among the natives.
Episode 6: Wally and Anjuli, Part Two After making a last stand at the embassy, Ash journeys home. There, he learns that Anjuli’s husband is near death; she and her sister, Shushila, will have to commit suttee, immolating themselves on his funeral pyre. Ash concocts a desperate plan to save his lover.
Yet there were marvelous scenes, such as the caravan of the wedding party, and the suttee near the end of the film. The battle scenes, especially in Afghanistan, were excellent. The technical quality of the DVD I watched was top notch. But the pace occasionally dragged. There also seemed to be annoying gaps in motivation which may have been lost in the transition from novel to the screen.
I would like to give this film more stars, but for all the money that must have been spent in the production, the story should have had more drive.