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Always wanted a documentary on 'White Mughals': William Dalrymple

Press Trust Of India

First published: March 23, 2016, 5:16 PM IST | Updated: March 23, 2016
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Always wanted a documentary on 'White Mughals': William Dalrymple

New Delhi: ‘White Mughals’ holds a specialplace in William Dalrymple's heart as it was his first history book and the only love story he has ever written.

The writer-historian has now turned a narrator to tell the unusual but tragic love story between James Achilles Kirkpatrick and Khair-un-Nissa, the Muslim princess of Hyderabad in "The White Mughal - Love and Betrayal in India".

Dalrymple says he always wanted a documentary on the book as it lends itself beautifully to the screen.

"I originally wanted a documentary when I wrote the book but I had given up and then last year BBC carried an India series and they got in touch and commissioned it. In India, it is going to be shown by Discovery."

The documentary, slated to premiere on Discovery channel at 9 PM on March 28, will see the author visiting the places where the romance between British diplomat and Khair flourished in the 18th century India.

"'White Mughals' is the only love story. The other book is about war. I was very taken up with the story when I came across it. It took me five years to research. At that time I did not know how to write history. It was a big learning," Dalrymple told PTI.

The author says it was quite difficult to contain the 700 pages long story in a one hour narrative but credits director Spike Geilinger and producer Lydia Conway for doing a great job.

"We struggled in boiling down 700 pages down to an hour long story. I read it and presented it but they played a major role in transforming the book into a documentary," he said.

The book presents an interesting point in the history where the early British settlers intermingled with Indians freely, sometimes ditching their culture for the culture of their adoptive country.

Kirkpatrick converted to Islam to marry Khair-un-Nissa which created a huge scandal at the time as there was a growing apathy in the Britishers against the officers, who had gone native.

Dalrymple says historians have largely ignored this brief period of intermingling between the two cultures despite so much being written on the colonial past in India.

"The starting point of 'White Mughals' was to throw light on an interesting period. I believe the interaction between Indian and British in the 18th century has been covered up or ignored by historians.

"There were different set of rules for the 19th century but in 18th century, there was a huge amount of interaction be it social, political, friendship, economic or sexual. My task was to know more about this period and this one story about Khair and James seemed to symbolise the whole period."

The story of James Achilles Kirkpatrick and Khair-un-Nissa will also get a movie with British actor-director Ralph Fiennes at the helm.

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