Slideshow: On the Set of Indian Summers
See exclusive photos and read insider commentary from MASTERPIECE Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton's trip to the set of
Indian Summers in Penang, Malaysia! From lush settings, to breathtaking behind-the-scenes views, get an up-close look at the locations that inspired the series.
Indian Summers Sundays, September 27 - November 22, 2015 at 9/8c on MASTERPIECE on PBS.
The Table Read
Here is Henry Lloyd-Hughes (Ralph Whelan), Aysha Kala (Sooni Dalal) and Nikesh Patel (Aafrin Dalal). This photo is from the very first time Episode 1 was read aloud. While the actors got settled— many of them meeting for the first time— the executives had script meetings in incredibly hot, airless rooms, making final adjustments to the script.
Table reads are always kind of buzzy—people are nervous and excited and putting their best foot forward. It’s like the first day of school. And in this case, they were then about to live together thousands of miles from home.
The set designers created this “town” out of nothing. Though the set conveyed that frenzied, busy commercial feel, it was only a couple of storefronts. This looks like the real thing to me!
The Dalal House
The production department created all sets from scratch, including Aafrin’s house. The actress who played his mother, Lillete Dubey, had a scene in which she was supposed to be cooking bread and talking to Aafrin at the same time. Can you imagine? That’s hard enough to do on a modern stove!
The Dalal House
During our visit they were having a blessing of this space. They had religious leaders come in, everyone sat on the floor, and they prayed and chanted. It was a great, local send-off that started the production on a positive, respectful note.
Sarah Raworth's House
This UNESCO World Heritage Site was exactly the way it looked in person. The colonial British really built and lived in it to try and recreate England abroad. It’s high up above the city of Penang. We had to take a funicular to get up there. If you have to get down from this hill in a hurry, you’re in trouble.
The Simla Club
As you can see, there was a huge amount of work to do to get this location ready. There were also a lot of arrangements made with the Malaysian government in the restoration of these sites, so that they could be kept open to the public in between filming periods, which is a great way that the series benefits the local community.
The Locations Department
The locations department is housed in a seemingly normal office building in downtown Penang. You’d never know it from the outside, but as soon as you step in it’s the backstage of
Indian Summers. There’s the wardrobe department, the locations department, the budget office, the show lawyers...It’s mission control.
The Costume Department
This is the dress that Alice wears in the very first scene of the show. There was a lot of discussion about the color of this dress because it’s the first time we see her, and color can communicate a tremendous amount about a character. The thought was to make it muted, but warm. It would stand out in the shot, so you would know, “Pay attention to this person!”
Making the Costumes
For historical accuracy, many of these costumes were made of linen. But in a very humid, sweaty environment, linen tends to crumple. For many of the costumes there were several versions of exactly the same piece, particularly for the men’s shirts, so if they got soggy they could switch into an alternate. The costumes department had their hands full.
Indian Summers utilized a lot of local crew and production assistance, and that took some adjusting from the British show runners, who generally work with the same people from show to show in England. The show’s Executive Producer Charlie Pattinson said, in a way the making of the show mirrored what the story is about—one culture intersecting with another. The two groups really were mindful of that and approached the project with an open mind and generosity of spirit.
Indian Summers is filmed, is lush, bright, and tropical. When it’s not monsoon season it’s very clear, and the light makes the colors even brighter. The whole country is eye popping. So much in Penang is eye-popping, and sense-popping—The see of it, the smell of it, the look of it. I think the production team accentuated that quality in the way they shot Indian Summers, which is really wonderful. It’s transporting.