Gurinder Chadha’s Viceroy’s House will be in theatres on September 1, 2017. The movie records India of 1947 – how a bloody conflict ensued between the country’s Hindu- Sikh majority and Muslim minority that sought Pakistan, how British colonial rule informed those tensions, and how the last viceroy Lord Mountbatten was not the cunning architect of partition, but a man caught up unawares in a bigger political game.
London based director Gurinder Chadha, known for Bend It like Beckham, has a personal connection to these events – her Indian grandparents lived through the partition that displaced 14 million people and killed one million, making it history’s largest human mass migration.
Hugh Bonneville as Lord Mountbatten does what he does so well. He plays an endearing patriarchal aristocrat (read Downton Abbey) who runs a large house, sometimes with disastrous results. However, unlike Downton’s Earl of Grantham, Lord Mountbatten was very much real. A great-uncle and mentor to Prince Charles, he was an accomplished naval officer and statesman whose numerous titles included Last Viceroy of India. He governed until India’s transition to independence and the tortured partition that accompanied it, creating the separate republic of Pakistan.
Gurinder Chadha’s wry humour peeps in at many occasions in Viceroy’s House. There are several interactions between the aristocracy and their servants that render themselves to humour. Lady Mountbatten (played by Gillian Anderson) enters her Delhi mansion with daughter Pamela and dog, and both ladies drool over the lavish chicken brought for their dog. To the servants’ bewilderment, they end up tasting the dish. The Mountbattens were no snobs, but became inadverent pawns of Winston Churchill’s divide and conquer policy.
Ready to erupt at minimal provocation, the pre-partition Indian community is intolerant of love between an intense Hindu ex-police officer Jeet (Manish Dayal) and a Muslim girl Aalia (gorgeous Huma Qureshi). Their impossible young love adds another dimension to the historical events that unfold. The late Om Puri has left his mark on possibly his last role as he portrays Aalia’s blind Muslim freedom fighter father. Their romance is doomed before it can blossom due to religious differences, as fateful events unfold.
Viceroy’s House will be loved by all history buffs, and by a generation of Hindus and Muslims whose parents and grandparents lived through the reality of India – Pakistan partition in 1947.