I have never been a fan of dramas. Especially historical dramas with large ensemble casts and sub-plots as twisted and dated as their characters. I’d rather watch a heist thriller or even a dumbed-down high-octane action flick for that matter. But then…I watched Downton Abbey. I watched the first season and then continued as if I had no choice.
While the plotting is flawless, it is one of those rare pieces of screen art whose dialogues stick with you. Not just because of the actors who say them, not just because of the situations they are said in and not just because of the way they are said, but also because of the countless times you get to smile at the fact that life in 1921 was, in many ways, exactly the same as it remains in 2021. To quote from the masterpiece, “All life is a series of problems which we must try and solve, first one and then the next and then the next, until at last, we die.”
The drama follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants. It depicts real-life events such as the First World War, the Spanish flu pandemic and many more, while always managing to keep the focus on the delightful twists and turns surrounding the occurrences in the Abbey. The episodes are longish but gripping. Each of the twenty-odd characters has a well-defined journey, which flows so naturally, you feel there hardly is a writer. The most interesting parts are the grave ethical dilemmas that arise along the way and that are met with equally strong responses from some of the most humane characters ever written for television.
The series boasts of a stellar cast and lavish production with the massive Highclere Castle in North Hampshire as its chief filming location. Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern play the family heads to perfection and the chemistry between the lead romantic pair, played by Michelle Dockery and Dan Stevens, is absolutely delightful. Each of the elements, from the heart-wrenching title track to the exquisite costume design to the dazzling interiors, adds up gloriously to the affluence on display.
This is one international television series suited perfectly for an Indian adaptation. It has all the ingredients needed to entertain the Indian audience, which is lapping up quality content like never before. A dash of Indian royalty and a wisp of Indian classical music and the adaptation could well be showcased as the majestic Indian epic that has been missing from the screen for many years.
Of course, Downton Abbey suffers the only curse that all the best television series do. The first season sets the bar too high for the later ones to match up to. But even the subsequent seasons do justice to the imposing job at hand and keep the audience satisfied. Well, almost. As the inimitable Maggie Smith, playing the Dowager Countess, remarks, “With any luck, they’ll be happy enough. Which is the English version of a happy ending.”
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.