Two years after Wellington crushes Napoleon at Waterloo, dispatches from India tell of a local Maharaja, Khande Rao, who is threatening British interests there. Wellington sends Sharpe to investigate what turns out to be his most dangerous mission to date.
The last scout sent - whom we discover is Sharpe's best friend, Sgt Harper - has gone missing. His latest report suggests that the real power behind the Maharaja is one Colonel Dodd (a malcontent East India Company officer 'turned rogue') and that the Maharaja has gathered into his impregnable fort a contingent of refugees from Napoleon's army - adventurers looking to make their fortunes in India. It's the French that trouble Wellington the most: their experience, tactics and discipline could help fashion the Indians into something more than 'just a perennial bloody nuisance'...
As usual, Wellington has not painted the full picture. For once in India, Sharpe discovers the situation is already far graver than he was led to believe; and things only get worse when the daughter of General Burroughs, the commander of His Britannic Majesty's forces in the region, is kidnapped and held in the Maharajah's fort by his villainous henchman, Colonel Dodd (Toby Stephens) and the scheming yet beautiful Madhuvanthi (Padma Lakshmi). The British were planning to storm the Maharajah's fort by blowing up one of the outer walls—but the Maharajah now vows to execute the General's daughter if any such attack is carried out. Worse still, it turns out that General Burroughs has gone down with a fever and that Sharpe's gutless nemesis, General Simmerson, is now in overall charge of the army.
Sharpe, now reunited with Harper (Daragh O'Malley), devises a plan. The two friends will disguise themselves as deserters and become part of the Maharajah's motley crew. Once inside the fort they will rescue the General's daughter and get word to him of her safety - together with details of which side of the fort they should attack. General Simmerson reluctantly agrees. However once inside the fort things don't quite go as Sharpe has planned...
Epic in scale, this Sharpe was filmed on location in the sumptuous fort and palace locations of Jaipur/Jodphur in Rajasthan India. The locations are replete with all that exotic India has to offer plus stunning, nail-biting fight sequences featuring thousands of extras.
the opening pages of the original treatment for SHARPE'S CHALLENGE, as written by Russell Lewis in 2004.
Richard Sharpe and the Pindari Campaign 1817-1818
3rd Mahratta War
PART THE FIRST
Entr'Acte - 1803
Chasalgaon; a miserable, god-forsaken, thorn-walled fort on the frontier of Hyderabad. Sgt.Richard Sharpe, leading a detail of six privates, and an interpreter, thirteen year old Devi Lal, arrives to collect eighty thousand rounds of prime musket cartridges.
The cartridges, originally stolen from the East India Company (EIC) armoury at Madras, have been recaptured by sepoys out of Chasalgaon, under the command of Major Crosby, a billious EIC officer, and are now bound for the armoury at Seringapatem, three days march to the south. From there they are to be issued to British troops who are readying for war against the Mahrattas, a loose confederation of princedoms opposed to British rule.
It's immediately clear from Crosby's dealings with Sharpe that there is little love lost between the EIC and the King's army. Sharpe is quick to discover that seven-thousand cartridges are missing. Crosby has sold them, but claims that the lost ammunition was ruined by damp and should be listed by Sharpe as 'spoilage.' Devi Lal teases Sharpe, for the Major has done no more than Sharpe planned on doing himself. While the young interpreter and the rest of his men fall to scrounging some dinner, Sharpe goes off to seek some ox-wagons.
In his absence, the watch announces a troop of Company soldiers are approaching the fort. These fresh arrivals are led by Major William Dodd. He greets Crosby, orders his men to fix bayonets - “I like to offer a proper salute to a fellow Englishman” - and, before Crosby can react, instructs his men to open fire. Crosby is the first to go down.
Sharpe, drawn to the fray by the gunfire, straightaway takes a glancing musket shot across his scalp. It's not life-threatening, but it's enough to lay him out and cover him in blood. He drifts in and out of consciousness, unable to move or speak, as the massacre unfolds about him. Dodd's men leave no-one alive, not even sparing Devi Lal, who is bayoneted as he bends over Sharpe, trying to revive him.
The unfortunate Major Crosby, though, is not quite dead. Desperately, he tries to crawl away from the carnage. Dodd comes across, and, as Crosby gasps for quarter, casually beheads him.
As Sharpe's senses slip away, his blood intermingling with that of his young interpreter, he catches the name which will haunts his dreams... Major Dodd.
To Ferraghur - a sprawling palace/fortress - dark and foreboding against a crescent moon. A lavish Great Hall. On his throne, the aging raja, in company with Madhuvanthi, his favourite concubine; his son Emir and daughter Lalima, aged five and six respectively. Dodd presents the raja with Crosby's head, which the raja tosses to his pet tiger. We drift away to the billowing smoke of an aromatic censer, and through the smoke, we dissolve to...
...LONDON, 1817. A fog shrouded morning. Lt.Col Richard Sharpe, late of the 95th Rifles, suvivor of the Chasalgaon massacre, veteran of the Penisular war, and hero of Waterloo, arrives on Battersea Fields, where a duel is about to take place to settle a dispute of 'undivulged cause.'
see the first scene of the original shooting script used for the making of SHARPE'S CHALLENGE.
1 EXT. CHASALGAON FORT - DAY
Against a blazing sun, the flag of the East India Company
flutters in the breeze. A BUGLE SOUNDS.
WIDER, NOW. A THORN-WALLED hill FORT on the Hyderabad
border. Half a dozen fighting platforms spaced around a
perimeter fence which encloses a beaten earth parade ground; a mud-walled BARRACKS, thatched with palm; a stone walled MAGAZINE; a COOKHOUSE, etc. Officers' TENTS dotted about.
SUPERIMPOSE TITLE: "CHASALGAON, INDIA, 1803" *
The FORT is peopled by a few European OFFICERS & NCOs, mostly native VCOs (NCOs), SEPOYS, milling about, together with a few NATIVE CIVILIANS - wives and children of the garrison.
2 EXT. CHASALGAON FORT/GATES - DAY
A HAVILDAR (Sergeant) on sentry duty above the gates looks out over the approach to the fort to see:
3 EXT. CHASALGAON FORT/APPROACHES - DAY
A thin line of British REDCOATS (European), in company with an Indian YOUTH, emerge from a grove of trees and march towards the fort across a dry river-bed.
At the head of the column of six REDCOAT Pvts., Sgt.Richard SHARPE, (20s), of the King's 33rd Regiment of Foot; dust begrimed and sweat stained from the trail -- his hair powdered white with flour and clubbed into a queue. Trotting happily along beside him - DAVI LAL, (14), his interpreter.
4 EXT. CHASALGAON FORT/GATES - DAY
The HAVILDAR calls down to garrison SEPOYS on Gate Duty.
Troops approaching! Open the gates!
The SEPOYS open the gates.
5 EXT. CHASALGAON FORT/GATES/PARADE GROUND - DAY
SHARPE leads his men inside, and onto the parade ground.
Right. Fall out, lads!
With groans of relief, SHARPE's REDCOATS unsling their packs. SHARPE casts a beady eye about the fort -- his gaze lights on: the COOKHOUSE -- SEPOY COOKS preparing mutton-stew or something similar outside the cookhouse.
Davi? Gerrus some grub going.
Mister Richard, sahib, sorry I am
to tell you, we have no grub.
We don't. No. But they have.
SHARPE nods towards the cookhouse.
That would be stealing, sahib! How
am I to be a good British soldier
if you make me into a thief again?
It ain't thieving when you're
hungry, Davi. First thing any