Movie Review: 'Beecham House'

John Thomas

John Beecham has finally had enough of the brutal treatment of the people of India by his employers, The East India Company. The latter came to India as a trading concern, sending jewels, spices, dyes and opium back to England. As the “companies” wealth and prominence increased, they felt a private army was needed to protect their interests. In a fit of rage at yet another atrocity against the locals, Lt. Beecham discards his military uniform and stomps off. Later, riding on horseback through the peaceful landscape, he comes upon a robbery in progress. He intervenes and saves an elderly gentleman (a maharajah) and his two young daughters. In the process he is wounded.

Years later he is rewarded for his kindness by being given a palatial home near Delhi. The home is his thank you from the wealthy nobleman. He brings to his new home a small entourage and a baby. Visiting his new neighbor, he’s introduced to the family and their British tutor, Margaret. She is happy to have a fellow Englishman nearby. John receives a surprise letter from his mother, Henrietta–she’s coming to visit. She arrives with Violet, a traveling companion. Both women complain about the conditions in India,”It’s not at all like England!”

More surprises for John – a former school-mate, Samuel Parker, is also on the ship. Then a beautiful, mysterious young woman arrives to tend to John’s baby – is she John’s wife the household wonders? There is just one more guest to arrive – Daniel, John’s spirited younger brother. The time is right for John to pursue his dream of having his own trading company. He must first, however, secure a trading license from the Emperor and gain approval from General Castillion, the region’s French head of security.

To assure his license, it is suggested that John present the Emperor with a birthday gift so special that the Empress will be delighted (the Emperor is blind). John arranges for a favorite servant to bring the gift he’s purchased–a large, articulated, golden sculpture–to his home. En route, both the servant and the gift disappear. Plots within the household begin to surface with the apparent goal of destroying John or at least getting him and his radical ideas out of India.

Henrietta brought Violet as a potential wife for John–not going to happen. Is his former friend, Samuel, really working with him? Did the nursemaid appear to only care for the baby or does she have other plans? Is Margaret John’s only allay and is Daniel a help or a hinderance? At the height of the plots and intrigues, the Maharajah from years past appears to intervene.

 Beecham House is a six-part PBS Masterpiece Television Presentation directed by Gurinder Chadha and is a “must see” production.


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