Set in the India of the maharajahs at the beginning of British military occupation in 1858, this miniseries portrays a love affair that struggles for survival against deep ethnic and cultural prejudice. Served up in five hours and 21 minutes of pomp and circumstance, the production regales the eye with bejeweled royalty, ornate palaces, processions of elephants in full ceremonial brocade, and knightly heroes wielding swords and six-guns against a backdrop of sky-scraping mountains and blood-red sunsets. The forbidden romance between lower-caste Indian Princess Anjuli (Amy Irving) and British officer Ashton Pelham-Martyn (Ben Cross), an orphan reared by Indian parents, presents a familiar literary and film motif: Love knows no boundaries -- family, ethnic, political, or cultural. The purity of their love, which is blind to social and cultural taboos, preaches a message that India, Britain, and all the world should heed. Unfortunately, minor details flaw the production. For example, Amy Irving -- browned with splotchy makeup -- looks more like a roasted chestnut than an Indian princess. In addition, Pelham-Martyn's ability to kill with a revolver shot from hip level at distant targets (à la Roy Rogers and Gene Autry) ruins the sense of realism. Cross and Irving perform capably, but it is the supporting actors who carry the day. For example, Rossano Brazzi is surprisingly good as the hedonistic Raja of Bhitour. His accent, his superior air, and his makeup all work. In addition, Omar Sharif -- who is protean in his ability to portray ethnic characters -- is superb as Koda Dad, a Muslim master of horses who was a father figure to Pelham-Martyn when he was growing up. Throughout the film, the cinematography captures the wondrous Indian landscape, including the "far pavilions" -- the lofty mountain ranges that allow history to play out beneath them.
by Mike Cummings review