One day after reading an article, about the social upheavals in Britain after the sinking of Titanic, I tried Google for more information but what I got instead was a big poster of Downton Abbey. Curious I started to read about the show and I came to know that it was one of the most watched shows all around the world. The only most watched shows, of this magnitude I knew of, were Ramayana and Mahabharata. But the questions that hovered on my mind that day were, what is so majestic about Downton Abbey? and why is it considered to be the Mahabharata of England?
By now my excitement for the show was obvious and I very much wanted to watch the show and then I got unexpected but not unwanted news. Star World was going to telecast all five seasons of this show to gain popularity among the Indian audiences. After finally watching the show I have realized how rich and profound it is. And why is it as popular as it is. It is a gem of a show. And yeah, it is Downton not Down-town.
Let me give you all a brief recap of the main story-line. Set in the early 20th century, this show starts when the presumptive heir of Downton Abbey drowns in the sinking RMS Titanic in 1912. The Earldom then passes to Lady Cora who has no son but only three daughters. Then there comes a man from Manchester who is a distant relative of Lady Cora’s family and becomes the new heir of Downton Abbey.
The show is not only about the estate, it is a story of social revolutions and change. With almost 30 main characters, Downton Abbey marks the great divide between the ancient thinking and the modern realities; between the wealthy classes and the working classes; between stagnancy and the shifting sands of time. Downton Abbey is a Yorkshire country house, where the Earl and Countess of Grantham (Robert and Cora Crawley – their last names are not Grantham, just their title) live with their three daughters (the uptight Mary, the feminist Sybil and poor neglected Edith) and countless servants. All the servants of Downton live in the basement managing the house and taking care of it for their wealthy masters. Their masters are nice to them but reluctant to changes. Each and every character of this Epic show has a certain set of perceptions and viewpoints. But only one thing is constant in this series, Change.
Hence the five reasons as to why you should watch this series are:
1. The Social Revolutions:
Downton Abbey starts in the midst of sinking of the RMS Titanic in the 1912 and takes you to a journey of many social revolutions. From the First World War to the feminist movements, from the Irish Civil War to the Russian revolution, not a bit of the upheaval has went unnoticed by this masterpiece of a show. The impact of these events on the lives of millions of the common people of those times is beautifully portrayed in this piece of art.
2. The Difference between the Classes:
Downton Abbey shows how great (yet fading) was the divide between the rich and the working classes of Britain. Mrs. Hughes, the housekeeper and Mr. Carson, the butler, manage everything at Downton and also keep track of the innumerable servants that live in the basement with them. There are several maids and footmen. These differences are only present for the hypocritical society with which the Crawleys dealt but in reality, the rich and poor in this series formed a bond even stronger than the blood relationships. But sometimes these relationships became something else. This division and integration are the Yin and Yang of the show.
3. Beautiful Portrayal of Feminism:
This show is set in the times when women had no rights; no rights to inherit the property or to vote. In such a patriarchal setup, the women characters of this show depict revolutionary thinking that changed the whole scenario of women in the 21st century. In the times when women were considered only delicate beings, meant for producing children and mending their families, these women represent the winds of change. Lady Sybil, the youngest daughter of the Earl had to make excuses just to get a glimpse of the marches for women’s rights. Gwen, a maid at Downton has dreams of becoming a secretary and break away from the bonds of slavery.
4. The Performances:
All the actors in this masterpiece are exceptional in their performances. From the 80 year old Maggie Smith to the 20 year old Sophia McShera, this show has a lot of talent to showcase. Even the writer of the show, Julian Fellowes, has won various awards for his mind-blowing scripts and dialogues. All the cast and crew of the show and filled with extreme talent and brilliance in their performances. Even the production designing and costume designing of this show is par excellence. It is indeed true that show of such caliber can be made only with the powerful performances of each and every member associated with it.
Since its start, Downton Abbey has not missed a single ceremony of Emmy or Golden Globe. I think that more than speaks for itself and its capability.
5. The Downton Abbey Mansion Itself:
Standing majestically even after many wars and catastrophes, the Downton house truly symbolizes the idealistic state of being. It shows that even if everyone and everything is falling, yet you should always stand and fight every difficulty with courage. It represents indifference and hope for the future inheritors of the Downton Palace. The show would have been nothing, had this house not been in the picture. It surely gives us a taste of history.
This show, an epic in itself, is one of the few shows produced by humans , that showcases the realm of the society with such great sanctity. Very few shows in the history of television, portray the actual picture of the society with such great finesse. Winner of a number of Emmys, this show is one of the top 5 most watched shows in the world. I would recommend all of you to watch this masterpiece if you want to get a gist of what really history truly means.
By- Utkarsh Panwar