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The Far Pavilions  [DVD]
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Epic adaptation of M.M. Kaye's novel. Englishman Ash (Ben Cross) was orphaned at the age of four, but was saved from the Indian Mutiny by a Hindu foster mother who brought him up as her own. Only on her deathbed did she reveal Ash's true origins to him, and he finds himself torn between the British and Indian establishments as he tries to win the hand of Anjula (Amy Irving), his childhood friend, now an Indian princess already betrothed to a local ruler.
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My first gripe is that the story has been changed quite a lot, so that first quarter of the book, dealing with Ash's early life, is covered in the opening credits plus a couple of flashbacks. Additionally, instead of keeping his background quiet, Ash now spouts off about it to virtually everyone he meets, which changes his character somewhat. And thirdly, the book has the Afghan war as the final scene, whereas this film uses the rescue of Anjuli from Bithor. Whilst I understand these changes are probably for the purposes of pace and dramatic effect, for me they spoilt my enjoyment of the film, since the gradual alienation of Ash from the British, Hindu and finally the Moslem communities is not fully explained, and the aftermath of Anjuli's rescue is glossed over as she and Ash ride off into the sunset.
The film is split up into a number of episodes, but after I'd watched the lengthy opening credits for the third time, I began to wish that, before converting it to DVD, it had been edited into a continuous whole. I also felt rather let down by the casting of the film. For my money, Ben Cross was just too short, and Amy Irving (Anjuli) looked as if her face had been covered in plaster of Paris, since her expression hardly ever changed. The child actors were also a bit wooden. However, the Indian cast were mostly fantastic, and the scenes of India, and particularly the bridal cortege, were great. The latter, in particular, combined just the right amount of gaudy splendour with noise and chaos.
Overall I felt this wasn't a terrible adaptation of the book, just not as good as I remembered, though my view of it probably suffered because I had read the book again so recently. Three and a half stars.
In the dvd this is shown by some lavish scenes such as the Royal procession taking the two Indian Princesses to the "bad" Prince's lair.
Very few films about India in Victorian days really express the sheer size and scale of baggage trains which followed both military and civilian expeditions, they literally stretched for miles and were lucky if they managed more than 10 miles per day.
The love interest is nicely done as are the fight and travel scenes. As someone who is familiar with the mountains of the North-West Province of what used to be British India (now split between Pakistan and India)I can say the filming is well upto my standards and expectations.
If you like lavish love stories interspersed with military derring-do, super costumes and scenery - this is for you. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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