One of the highlights of our recent visit to Lahore was a misty morning trip to the mausoleum complex of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. We revelled in the architecture, the decorative motifs and patterns reflecting ideas of life, love and infinity, the manicured lawns and ancient trees – and even gatecrashed an impromptu game of cricket being played in the shadows of one of the smaller tombs (see a photo of that over on our Instagram page). All in all, a lovely morning. What we didn’t know was that a century earlier, Rudyard Kipling may have visited those same grounds to pick up prostitutes. Mega, experience enhancing information for the likes of us.
This, and other gems, are part of BBC Two’s hour-long ‘Kipling’s Indian Adventure’ which showed over the weekend. Presented by Patrick Hennessey, ex-soldier and author of a much-lauded book about his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan ‘The Junior Officer’s Reading Club’, the show charts Kipling’s seven-year journalistic career in India, which spanned modern day India and Pakistan, specifically Lahore.
Hennessey is out to right perceptions about Kipling – who has been termed variously as imperialist, racist, fascist. He puts forward a thoughtful argument rooted in reference to Kipling’s news reports and books. The show charts Kipling’s early experiences of reporting on the monotony (and occasional debauchery) of colonial life, the mind-broadening effects of his experimentation with opium and hemp, his nightly forays into the ‘forbidden’ Old City of Lahore, and evenings in the red-light district. He ends up seeing an India seldom encountered by his British counterparts and ultimately uses these insights to produce the strong, and hugely popular social commentary fiction that we all know.
The cinematography is also beautiful, and the Old City is effectively portrayed as the entrancing but edgy creature that it is. We’re not totally convinced about Kipling – that’ll take some more reading and thinking – but it’s a great story well-told. And that makes ‘Kipling’s Indian Adventure’ a must-watch.
It’s on Iplayer until 21 March here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b071xz0p
Photo: BBC Two
Posted on: 25 February 2016