William Dalrymple’s book The Anarchy, on the history of how the East India Company transformed from an Elizabethan trading corporation to become the rulers of India through loot and plunder, is to become a major television series. In an interview with The Wire, the author talks about the book, the television series, its producer and scriptwriter and more.
In a 31-minute interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire, Dalrymple said the story of the East India Company will take many in Britain by surprise and will, probably, be resented by the right-wing of the Tory Party including, it seems, Britain’s new deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden. As the London Times says: “the subject matter will confront Britain’s controversial imperial history … that history does not always make for comfortable reading from a British perspective.”
The story of the East India Company’s conquest of India is a quest for profit. It wasn’t a mission to bring good governance, leave aside to improve the lives of the Indian people. Dalrymple says the story of the East India Company’s conquest of India is “sinister”. It was a corporation “like Google and Twitter”, which acquired control of India through loot and plunder. As he puts it: “These are not glorious stories of national heroism. They are quite grubby stories of corporate greed and corruption.” By 1800, the East India Company controlled an army of 200,000. At the time, the British army was just 100,000. Many if not most of the East India Company’s resources came from Indian bankers, in particular the Jagat Seths.
In the interview, Dalrymple speaks in great detail of the story The Anarchy.
Dalrymple said, “The idea is to do it on a massive scale. Either you don’t do it or you do it guns blazing with a cast of a thousand elephants.” The producer is Siddharth Roy Kapur. “I sold it to a Bollywood company because they have resources now which British companies don’t,” Dalrymple said, adding that he hopes and, perhaps, even expects that this series will be the moment when Bollywood “becomes truly international”.
The scriptwriter is Jeremy Brock, a BAFTA winner, whose earlier work includes The Last King of Scotland and Mrs. Brown. Brock has said the series will have “the scale of Game of Thrones (and) the internecine plotting of Succession”. He also expects this could run for three full series.
Dalrymple said a single British character will leave a dominant stamp on each of the three series. It will be Robert Clive in the first. Warren Hastings in the second. Lord Wellesley (the elder brother of the Duke of Wellington) in the third.
The author also answers questions about the language/languages in which the TV series will be made, the cast that is being considered and the locations that have already been visited and recced. The script of series one is already being worked upon and Dalrymple believes it should be finished by June.