ITV has rounded out cast for its upcoming India-set drama Beecham House from Bend It Like Beckham filmmaker Gurinder Chadha and her Bend It TV. Among the talent joining the epic six-part series are Jekyll & Hyde‘s Tom Bateman, Downton Abbey‘s Lesley Nicol and Mr Selfridge‘s Gregory Fitoussi.
Chadha co-created, co-wrote and will direct three episodes of the drama that begins shooting in India and at Ealing Studios this month. Set on the cusp of the 19th century in Delhi before the era of British rule, Beecham House follows the fortunes of the residents of the titular and imposing mansion.
Also taking up residence are Adil Ray (Citizen Khan), Marc Warren (Safe), Pallavi Sharda (Lion), Dakota Blue Richards (Endeavour), Leo Suter (Victoria) and Bessie Carter (Les Miserables), among others.
Bateman plays John Beecham, a handsome and soulful former soldier who has purchased the magnificent mansion to begin a new life with his family. Wealthy and distinguished, John has witnessed profiteering and exploitation during his time with the controlling East India Company and has resolved to conduct his business as a trader in a more equitable manner. Determined to escape his previous life, he appears haunted by his past, but is inspired to become an honorable member of the region’s trading community.
In spite of John’s good intentions, his life is shrouded in mystery — and when he arrives at the house with an olive-skinned child named August and two Indian nursemaids, Chanchal (Shriya Pilgaonkar) and Maya (Trupti Khamkar), it causes speculation and gossip among the servants that he may be the boy’s father. One of the nursemaids is overly protective and particularly fond of the child. Could she be John’s lover and the mother of August?
Nicol is John’s robust, interfering mother Henrietta who has traveled from England to India to stay with her son. She is accompanied by a young family friend Violet (Carter) who she is determined to help form a union with John.
The pair has in tow an old friend of John’s, Samuel Parker (Warren), who has also left the East India Company for a fresh start. Suter is John’s brother Daniel who further exits the East India Company to join him at Beecham House.
Fitoussi plays General Castillon, a French mercenary working for the Emperor at a time when the French are challenging the East India Company for India. Ray is John’s neighbor Murad Beg, who dislikes the General intensely and agrees to help John secure a trading license. Murad’s daughter, Roshanara, (Kanika Kapur) has an English governess Margaret Osborne (Richards) whose beauty and intelligence catches John’s attention.
But wait! When the alluring Chandrika (Sharda) arrives at Beecham House with her entourage, she is shown to luxurious guest quarters and immediately insists on seeing August — what is her secret?
ITV Head of Drama Polly Hill, who commissioned the sprawling saga, says Chadha “brings a fresh take to period drama, but at its heart are wonderful characters and a compelling story that will make this a treat in the ITV schedule next year.”
Chadha, who’s also been making feature Blinded By The Light, calls Beecham House “a passion project that is driven by my commitment to telling diverse, emotionally engaging stories for mainstream international audiences. I am thrilled to be working with Polly Hill and ITV Drama who share my belief that period drama can be entertaining, ambitious and relevant to key issues of today. I am assembling a vibrant cast of British and Indian actors to play original characters that will appeal to global audiences hungry to see stories from a unique point of view. I grew up with Raj dramas like Jewel In The Crown, The Far Pavilions and A Passage To India. Beecham House is my chance to tell those stories from a British Asian perspective.”
Chadha co-created the drama with Shahrukh Husain (In Custody). It was penned by Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, Victor Levin and Husain. Caroline Levy is series producer. Chadha will direct episodes one to three and Peter Lydon (Poirot) will helm the rest. FremantleMedia International is handling global distribution.