ITV’s epic new India-based series Beecham House launches this month.
Set on the cusp of the 19th century in Delhi before the British ruled in that region, the six-part period drama depicts the fortunes of the residents of Beecham House, an imposing mansion surrounded by acres of exotic woods and pristine lawns.
Beecham House is created by the writer and director of Bend It Like Beckham, featuring a cast of familiar faces from British period dramas including Lesley Nicol (Downton Abbey), Tom Bateman (Vanity Fair), Dakota Blue Richards (Endeavour), Leo Suter (Victoria), Gregory Fitoussi (Mr Selfridge) and Bessie Carter (Les Miserables).
The first episode airs in the UK at 9pm on Sunday 23rd June on ITV.
Here’s a guide to the characters we’ll be meeting in Beecham House:
John Beecham (Tom Bateman)
Brave and honourable, but haunted by a dark past, John Beecham is an Englishman who left home to seek his fortune in India.
The appalling profiteering and exploitation carried out by The British East India company led him to resign from military service, and he travelled across the country learning from its craftsmen and seeking a better way to trade.
It is now several years since John left the Company, and as he arrives in Delhi hoping to make a fresh start with his baby son August (Shona and Sienna Oberoi), it becomes clear that he is a changed man.
John carries many secrets, including the identity of August’s mother, and he is determined to keep them to protect his family. But when he meets Margaret, a beautiful English governess, his passions are re-awakened and he finds himself torn between love and duty.
But just as he begins to dream of a future with Margaret, John discovers that Delhi has secrets of its own, and in a city riddled with paranoia this British stranger is immediately suspect. As alliances are forged and betrayals mount, he will have to risk his freedom to protect those that he loves.
Chanchal (Shriya Pilgaonkar)
Chanchal travelled with John to Delhi and is responsible for looking after baby August. But although she is devoted to both John and August, she is as ambitious as she is beautiful, and dreams of a better life for herself.
When she meets Daniel there is instant chemistry between them and she wonders whether she has found her own English sahib to rescue her from a life of service. But gambling on love with Daniel will not only put her reputation at risk, it is certain to cause friction with the rest of the staff.
Baadal is deeply in love with Chanchal, and even though she ignores his advances, he will always be there to catch her if she falls.
Henrietta Beecham (Lesley Nicol)
John’s mother, Henrietta Beecham, has braved months at sea on the passage from England in the hopes of reuniting her family and bringing her sons home.
Her husband was condemned to a debtors prison in Australia long ago, and her last hope is that John has been successful and become rich like the nabobs that have become so famous in England.
India is a culture shock for Henrietta, but as the woman of the house she wants to know everything that is happening and is determined to maintain what she sees as proper British standards.
Henrietta is a proud woman who can clash with other strong personalities, but she only wants what is best for her family and is fiercely protective of them, especially baby August.
Violet (Bessie Carter)
Bright, bubbly and with a heart of gold, Violet Woodhouse has made the long voyage from England with the hope of finding herself a husband.
She is the travelling companion and confidante of Henrietta, and was childhood friends with John and Daniel. She had hoped, with Henrietta’s encouragement, to find her match in John, but although she discovers Margaret standing in her way, she is not one to be easily discouraged from her mission.
Violet also forms a bond with Samuel that may yet blossom into romance, but she needs to be sure that whoever she marries is attracted to her, and not to her family fortune.
Samuel Parker (Marc Warren)
Samuel Parker served side by side with John as a soldier in the Company, and although it’s many years since they last saw each other, the two men still share a close bond.
Charming and loyal, he is well accustomed to life in India and after a chance encounter with Henrietta and Violet in Calcutta, he escorted them to Delhi. Samuel welcomes John’s offer to stay and become business partners.
But Samuel bears a grudge against the Company, having received a dishonourable discharge, and has plans to bring them to justice.
Daniel Beecham (Leo Suter)
John’s younger brother, Daniel, is a soldier serving with the British East India Company.
He may have followed in his brother’s footsteps by coming to India, but that’s where the similarity ends. Daniel has a reckless streak. A man of action, he embraces the dangerous life of a soldier and has enjoyed all the pleasures that India has to offer.
He has a roguish charm that often proves irresistible, but he also struggles with temptation, and his blossoming relationship with Chanchal causes friction amongst the staff and puts him at odds with his brother.
Daniel is principled, if a little misguided, and although the brothers have their differences, he and John will always be there for each other when it matters.
General Castillon (Gregory Fitoussi)
Proud, honourable, and romantic, the flamboyant General Castillon is a French mercenary who serves Emperor Shah Alam. He has spent many years in India, making it his home, and has become friends with Margaret.
A veteran of combat around the globe, this shrewd tactician is unnerved by John’s arrival in Delhi and accuses him of being an agent for the company, advising Margaret to be wary of him. He is close friends with Vijay Singh and has a network of spies and informants throughout the city.
Castillon is determined to uncover the truth about John, but although the two men are natural rivals, they share more similarities than either of them would like to admit.
Murad Beg (Adil Ray)
Murad Beg is John’s neighbour and becomes his first friend in Delhi. He is a forward thinking man who has studied in London and he employs Margaret to give his daughter Roshanara a modern education.
Jovial and kind, he does his best to remove himself from the plotting and intrigue that is so rife in Delhi, but as the Empress’ cousin he cannot escape his duty, however much he wants to stay impartial.
With his royal connections, Murad Beg is able to help John make his entry into society, but that also means he is ideally placed to compromise him when political pressure is exerted from above.
Roshanara (Medha Shankar)
Roshanara is Murad’s daughter.
Margaret Osborne (Dakota Blue Richards)
Fiercely intelligent, independent and brave, Margaret Osborne is a rarity, an English woman in Delhi living on her own terms.
An artist, musician and scholar, she is a talented woman with a strong sense of justice and the courage to stand up for what she believes in. Having been let down by a former fiancé, she followed her brother to India, only to be abandoned by him and left to fend for herself. But instead of returning to England, she rose to the challenge of surviving alone in a foreign land.
Taking on the role of governess at the house of Murad Beg, she immersed herself in her work, still hoping that her brother might return for her. But just as she comes to terms with her isolation, she is introduced to John and cannot ignore the attraction between them, despite his refusal to talk about his past.
Margaret is patient and understanding with him, and still dreams of one day finding her match, but she won’t compromise her values or settle for less than she deserves, and until John can be completely honest with her she can never trust him fully.
Chandrika (Pallavi Sharda)
Chandrika’s unexpected arrival sends shockwaves through Beecham House, her regal manner and stunning beauty causing a stir amongst both the residents and the staff.
The proud daughter of the Maharajah of Kalyan, her close bond with John speaks to a secret and tragic past that they share, whilst her fierce protection of August fuels speculation that she could be the baby’s mother.
Chandrika may sometimes seem aloof, and her strong personality causes friction with Henrietta, but her haughty exterior masks a caring and courageous soul who would do anything to protect her
Mool Chand (Kulvinder Ghir)
The jolly head chef Mool Chand, along with his wife Bindu, are the heart and soul of Beecham house.
Labouring in the kitchen to create his culinary delights, he expects recognition for his artistry and can become quite upset when he feels he is not appreciated.
Having previously worked for an English Colonel, he has mastered the art of baking English cakes and delights in any opportunity to demonstrate his skills. A kind of unofficial ring leader for the staff, he loves to gossip and is determined to find out the truth about August’s mother.
Baadal (Viveik Kalra)
A faithful and talented young man, Baadal is the head of staff and as much a part of Beecham House as the bricks and mortar.
He is proud of his household and protective of his master, helping him to settle into life in Delhi. A romantic at heart, he cannot help becoming smitten by Chanchal, which puts him into conflict with both Daniel and the disapproving Ram Lal.
Nothing is more important to Baadal than the security and prosperity of Beecham House, but he will find his loyalties put to the test when he is forced to choose between duty and passion.
Emperor Shah Alam (Roshan Seth)
Ruler of the great Mughal Empire, son of Emperor Jahandar Shah, and father of Akbar, Shah Alam presides over an era of great change and turmoil.
A chess player and poet, he was once a great warrior until he was blinded fighting the Company at the Battle of Buxar. Proud of his lineage, but concerned for the future of the kingdom that he will pass on to his son, Shah Alam faces many difficult decisions as attempts to confront the insatiable greed of the Company.
Despite his blindness he is a great tactician, and John will have to tread carefully if he is to win the Emperor’s favour and establish himself in Delhi.
Begum Samru (Laura Dutta)
Begum Samru was a real woman who existed in 18th century India and was the head of a professional trained mercenary army.
Other characters include:
Bindu (Goldy Notay)
Ram Lal (Amer Chadha-Patel)
Maharaja of Kalyan (Denzil Smith)
Gopal (Vicky Arora)
Vijay Singh (Arunoday Singh)
Prince Akbar (Rudraksh Singh)
Beecham House will air in the USA later this year on Masterpiece on PBS.
Lesley Nicol will reprise the role of Mrs Patmore in the Downton Abbey movie this autumn.
Downton Abbey: The Complete Collection DVD box set is available on Amazon.