The Far Pavilions (1984)

The Far Pavilions (1984)

The Far Pavilions (1984)

HBO Made for Television Movie
Rossano Brazzi
Ben Cross
Sir John Gielgud
Amy Irving
Christopher Lee
Omar Sharif


In the manner of most mini-series, the cast of characters and their respective plot intrigues are endlessly introduced, retracted, re-introduced and eliminated … boiled down to its essentials, however, The Far Pavilions follows this basic outline: boy (Ben Cross) meets girl (Amy Irving) in childhood, boy loses girl to Indian Colonial wars and various intrigues; boy finds girl as adult, boy and girl fall in love but must part because girl is on her way to be married as a junior wife to the Rana of Bhithor (Rossano Brazzi), and boy saves girl from being incinerated in her trecherous and evil husband’s funeral pyre in the traditional suttee.

Oddly enough, no matter how many times the other characters refer to Rossano’s “Rana of Bhithor” as “evil”, “trecherous”, “malignant”, “arrogant”, “sinister” … nothing written into the script backs that up, and he comes across more as a powerful, rich, and slightly decadent and henostic businessman/landowner.

We first see him attempting to re-negotiate the terms of the marriage contract he has agreed to; finally he concedes, and the marriage takes place. It is an interesting insight into the most elegant, solemn and wildly extravagant of Indian hindu rituals – full of pagentry and tradition, wealth and riches … it’s a stunningly beautiful royal wedding … with the bridegroom making his entrance on the back of a huge Indian elephant! (And for Rossano’s thoughts about this scene, see the newsletter factoids.)

The senior wife (called Shu-Shu) is actually the younger half-sister of the junior wife – Amy Irving’s character – their caste differences accounting for the status differences in the marriage. Shu-Shu is greedy, self-centered and terrified of becoming suttee’ – for this reason her older sister has agreed to accompany her on this journey and assume the status of junior wife. Amy Irving’s role is pure Dickensian: sweet, submissive, generous, giving, always thinking the very best of and willing to sacrifice her own love and happiness for that of her younger sister. Meanwhile, the Rana has learned quickly that it is easy to “buy” the affection of his senior wife with jewelry and other gifts, and the greedy Shu-Shu falls in love with him. When she realizes that her affection for him results in gifts of jewels and trinkets, she schemes to keep his attention solely on herself, and commands her loving older sister be starved and isolated and kept apart from their husband. When he dies, she also commands that her sister’s eyes should be put out with a hot poker, as her beliefs teach her that immolating herself on her husband’s funeral pyre guarantees her a life in the hereafter with him, while Amy Irving’s character (blinded) will be forced to wander the heavens like a begger.

When the Rana does die, Ben Cross’s character rescues Amy’s from that gruesome fate; while Shu-Shu goes up in flames. And by god, she’s been so awful no one feels particularly bad for her, either.

Viewer’s Comments

To purchase the film THE FAR PAVILIONS from, click on the icon for the Boxed Set, and here for the Extended Play version.

You can also purchase the original novel by M.M. Kaye, upon which the film is based, by clicking on the book.

Multiple comments about the book submitted to AMAZON are below:

A reader from South Dakota , November 13, 1998: “How do I get to India? This was an awesome book and I think everyone should read this book. It gives you a chance to look at the other side of life and experience life in the simple way. To make to experince so real and when you learn so much this is a book to pass down to your grandchildren.” from Denver, CO , November 12, 1998: “One of my favorite books of all time. I was entranced for all 960 pages. A simply incredible novel.” from South Dakota , November 9, 1998: “A Romantic Tale For All To Read. While reading this book, you understand why people write, not only for their enjoyment but for the enjoyment of others also. I salute M.M. Kaye for writing one of the most intriging novels that I have ever read. The story of Ash and Anjuli makes you wish that you could have the same horrible, but wonderful experiences they had.”

A reader from Washington, D.C. , September 5, 1998: “Colorful mix of love, war, passion & prejudice! Could not put the book down! Scenes played out in my mind even as I slept. It is a story that haunts even after you finish the book. India’s version of the Thornbirds. M.M. Kaye retells history with fiction through the life of a young soldier as he experiences love, friendships and prejudices of British India. Wonderfully told!”

Ken Sherfy( from San Jose, California, USA , August 9, 1998: “Most fascinating and educational novel I’ve ever read. If Louis Mountbatten had been required to read this book (at least three times or seek instructions with its author and follow them religiously) before his appointment as the last viceroy of the subcontinent, over half a million Indians wouldn’t have lost their lives in crossing the line of partition of the land in August of 1947. This book has the power to heal (it has given me a new outlook on the British Raj) and as more and more of us get to read it, it seems possible the partition line will disappear, just like the wall in Berlin did.”

A reader from Kingston, Jamaica , June 11, 1998: “The Book That Held Me From Beginning To End. I was at a friend’s house and was helping to do a spring cleaning and came across the book commenting that I could never read a book so large. I read the first page, and forgot about the cleaning. I took it to bed with me that night, and every other night that followed and even in the days. A compelling story about love and hate. I remember trying to sneak peaks at the mini series as a teenager when I should be in bed BUT the fans will truly agree that the novel is much better. M.M. Kaye fans, try Trade WInds, that is also another spectacular write on the Culture of the land of Zanzibar and love and hate.” from Southern California , April 30, 1998: “Very good. I just finished this book today and immediately got on the computer to see if there was a sequel or if the author had written anything else. Along with Stendahl’s The Red and The Black this is the most inspirational fiction I have read this year. Would recommend to others Jung Chang’s Wild Swans for further adventures with a heart in the east.” from NYC , March 19, 1998: “Making my way through it! I am only in the early stages of this wonderful novel of 19th century India. It has been thoroughly enjoyable so far and I am anxious to get through it, but am restraining myself to enjoy each moment. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Romance Classics was running part two last weekend, but kept myself from watching (so I used only one eye instead of two, ha ha ha). Tomorrow, I am off on a long plane trip and can’t wait to hunker down for several hours of uninterrupted FP madness so if you arer sitting next to me, please let me read (but let me know when it is peanut time (to feed the elephants, of course!).” from Augusta, GA , March 7, 1998: “Fantastic Old-Fashinoed Epic. One of the best books I’ve read, ever. I took this book on my vacation to the Caymans’ and almost missed a dive trip to finish it. This book is absolutely engrossing. It has even captured the eye of my fiction hating husband, who tried to read over my shoulder on the plane.” from PA. , February 21, 1998: “The ultimate adventure. I read this book the first time in the 80″s and have read and re-read it uncountable times. In fact I wore out two copies and am about to purchase my third copy so that I can have it to read again and again. It doesn’t seem to matter how many time it is read I always become totally immersed in the story and always learn more about it and myself. If you have never read this book you are really missing the best possible read ever. Experience history, love, a foreign culture, and even a cruel world but you will fall in love with this story and the wonderful characters. I BET!” (Phillip J. Conroy) from Sydney, Australia , February 19, 1998: “The Most Beautiful Love Story I’ve Ever Read! This is the 5th or 6th time I’ve read this magnificent novel & I still can’t get enough! Her (M.M Kaye)knowledge of the Indian psyche is astounding, I can almost smell & taste the India of the 19th century. My heart ached & I was moved by the intense love between Ash & Anjuli. I felt their moments of joy & despair, Ash’s confusion of which society he belonged to & Anjuli’s unselfish love. I hope Ms. Kaye would consider writing a sequel (I know, it’s asking too much). Right now I’m trying to persuade my (Indian) wife to read this wonderful story, she’s only seen the 1984 TV mini series. I thoroughly recommend this book, thank you for a most wonderful & satisfying experience, Ms Kaye.” from Jamshedpur,India , January 26, 1998: “A Monumental Book. I Fell in Love with my Country all over again.” from Long Beach, CA , December 10, 1997: “Can’t find another book that measures up! I read this book many years ago when it first came out. While I barely remember the storyline, I do remember that it was one of the best books I’ve ever read. It was the beginning of my love affair with India and was solely responsible for my trip in 1984 to the Himalayas.” from Minneapolis, MN , October 1, 1997: “A vivid and imaginative world that you won’t want to leave. I am just now finishing this book and am so sad that it is ending. The characters are thoroughly unique, the story exciting, romantic and thought-provoking. What interests me as well, is the history behind this imaginative story – to think that many of the events portrayed really happened, and that the fragile, beautiful world portrayed is now gone forever. Even though the time the story takes place was long ago, the struggles the characters face are relevant today – after all, like the main character, Ash, people still struggle to answer “What is fairness?”, “What is my history?”, “Where do I belong?”, “how do I go my own way, love whomever I love, and truly be myself when others around me don’t want me to?” Even though this book seemed large at first, I don’t want it to end and wish it could go on and on.” from San Marcos, TX , September 29, 1997: “The best love story ever written. This is the best book I will ever read. The characters are wonderfully created and set against a mysterious and exotic background-a perfect love story setting . I assure you that you won’t want to see it end. Ash and Anjuli’s love story is unforgettable!!!”

A reader , August 6, 1997: “One of the best books I’ve read. I can’t remember the first time I read this book, but I do remember that when I finished it, I was so caught up in the romance and fantasy and sheer “lushness” of it that I vowed to name my first daughte Anjuli. And, in 1993, I gave birth to Anjuli Symone. When she is old enough, I will give her a copy of the book to read, until then, I will read it to her.

A reader , March 26, 1997: “The most enchanting love story I’ve ever read. . . What can I say? This book was incredible. Yes, it’s kind of long, but it’s entirely worth it. You’ll want to keep this one in your permanent collection. (If only it was in hardback!)”

A reader , February 2, 1997: “Rich with all the ingredients which form a ” novel. ” How many times have I read this book? I have absolutely no idea. I just know that at eleven, when I read the Far Pavillions, a new world was opened for me that has not diminished an iota in the following four and a half years. I recommend this book for anyone who can read, and especially for those who miss Christie and Heyer. The lives of the characters could not be more clear if they were unfolding before us. The words flow by us as if they were musical notes, and the magic that greets us from the beginning and stays until the end cannot be found in any other book I have read, and my list is considerable. The Far Pavillions is the novel of my lifetime, and it can be yours. ”

Did you get the impression that lots of people really loved reading this novel? And have you noticed that Rossano manages to get himself cast in movies that inspire people to actually go visit the countries depicted in the films …? As for books on the lives of, and films of Rossano’s co-stars BEN CROSS, CHRISTOPHER LEE, OMAR SHARIF and AMY IRVING, search the database under their names, using the form below:

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