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:: The Far Pavilions

The pageantry and splendour of 19th century India is stunningly portrayed in this terrific film. It would be impossible to produce a two-hour movie based on the 1,200 page book by M.M. Kaye, an international best seller. Even this five-hour mini-series does not do justice to the epic story. M.M. Kaye was born and raised in India. During her sojourn there, she heard the story of a rajah attempting to substitute another daughter as the bride in a princely wedding. She based her story loosely on this tale.

The Far Pavilions revolves around a forbidden love, that of an Indian Princess, Anjuli (Amy Irving) and British officer Ashton Pelham-Martin, or Ash (Ben Cross), who, orphaned as a small child, was raised by his amah as an Indian in the palace of Anjuli’s father. At the age of eleven, Ash and his foster mother were forced to flee for their lives because of a palace intrigue. After his foster mother’s death, in 1865, his true identity as an Englishman was revealed, and he was sent to Britain to be educated.

Returning to India as an adult, he joined the regiment that had rescued him as a child. One of the duties he undertook was an assignment to escort the wedding procession of two sisters of a local rajah across India to the palace of the Rajah of Bithor. He soon learned, to his delight, that one of these sisters was Anjuli, his childhood playmate. During the course of this trip, they fell in love.

The wedding procession consisted of horses, elephants, camels, bullock drawn carriages, wagons and cannon, plus countless foot-soldiers and retainers. The procession stretched out as far as the eye could see. The production crew spent twelve weeks on location filming in India.

Once the wedding party is camped under the guns of the Rajah of Bithor, the greedy bridegroom attempts to renegotiate the financial terms of the double wedding. Things got dangerously tense, but when Ash moved the caravan to safety under cover of darkness, the rajah was forced to capitulate. The wedding went on as planned. The pomp and splendour of the three-day wedding was something to behold.

Ash returned to his regiment, and shortly thereafter was sent as a spy to Afghanistan, where there was intermittent fighting. The newly installed British mission in Kabul was attacked and destroyed.

At times this movie was slow-moving, but the battle scenes were spirited and the snobbishness of the social scene was deftly portrayed. Overall though, The Far Pavillions shows India as it has never been seen before on film.

DVD Extras

M.M. Kaye biography
Production notes
Booklist