London: A new series set during the Raj era will hit British television screens in February 2015.
'Indian Summers' follows the footsteps of famous shows like 'The Jewel in the Crown' and is being described as potentially one of the most ambitious series ever made for the small screen with 50 one-hour episodes planned.
The new series, starring two-time BAFTA winner Julie Walters, is set in the hill station of Shimla, the favourite summer retreat of the ruling British elite, and will combine sweeping historical drama with a dash of intrigue.
According to 'The Sunday Times', the first series of 10 episodes opens in 1932, 15 years before independence, when the British are firmly in control of their empire, yet Mahatma Gandhi has already begun his campaign for self-rule.
Walters, 64, plays Cynthia Coffin, the widowed owner of the Royal Club, a haven for colonial toffs desperate to escape the burning summer heat of Delhi and Calcutta. On the Royal Club's gates is the infamous imperial sign: 'No dogs or Indians'.
Producers have plans for up to four further series of 10 episodes each, carrying the story through the tumultuous years leading to independence of India in 1947, if the first part is a success.
"Five series is the ambition, though of course we must first ignite the audience," Piers Wenger, Channel 4's head of drama told the newspaper.
"'Indian Summers' is a big, sweeping drama with the same narrative pleasure of the huge novel, which people seem to love these days. Like a great book, we hope viewers will find the television series utterly immersive," he said.
'The Jewel in the Crown' was based on the 'Raj Quartet' novels by Paul Scott, and is counted among the best British television series ever made.
The idea for 'Indian Summers' came from writer Paul Rutman. The challenge for the production team was to find a stand-in for Shimla, known as Simla during the Raj, which has shed much of its colonial aura.
Instead of filming elsewhere in India, producers settled on Penang in Malaysia.