Viceroy’s House DVD Film Review 

VICEROY’S HOUSE is a film that is both epic and intimate, with an inspirational message that celebrates tolerance. Many of the events depicted are either unknown or forgotten, but all have strong contemporary relevance in terms of lessons to be learnt concerning the politics of division and fear, the origins of religious extremism, and our moral responsibility towards migrants fleeing violence for a better life.

Gurinder Chadha’s Viceroy’s House tells the true story of the final months of British rule in India and its release will coincide with the 70th Anniversary of the Independence of India and the founding of Pakistan.

Viceroy’s House in Delhi was the home of the British rulers of India. After 300 years that rule was coming to an end.  For 6 months in 1947, Lord Mountbatten, great grandson of Queen Victoria, assumed the post of the last Viceroy, charged with handing India back to its people.

The film’s story unfolds within that great House.  Upstairs lived Mountbatten together with his wife and daughter; downstairs lived their 500 Hindu, Muslim and Sikh servants.  As the political elite – Nehru, Jinnah and Gandhi – converged on the House to wrangle over the birth of independent India, conflict erupted.  A decision was taken to divide the country and create a new Muslim homeland: Pakistan.  It was a decision whose consequences reverberate to this day.

The film examines these events through the prism of a marriage – that of Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten – and a romance – that between a young Hindu servant, Jeet (Manish Dayal), and his intended Muslim bride, Aalia (Huma Qureshi).  The young lovers find themselves caught up in the seismic end of Empire, in conflict with the Mountbattens and with their own communities, but never ever giving up hope.

Viceroy’s House is directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend it like Beckham) who sets the entire film in Viceroy’s House in Delhi, She is  able to bring under one roof the Mountbattens, the key Indian leaders (Nehru, Jinnah and Gandhi), and the 500 ordinary Indians Hindu, Sikh and Muslims – who served the Mountbattens as domestic staff. To reach a global audience she knew that she had to make her film entertaining and accessible. What better way than to visually embrace the splendour of the Raj, of Viceroy’s House, and to use humour and passion to tell a tale of upstairs and downstairs life in the grand tradition of Downton Abbey. In the microcosm of that great house the ace director was able to explore the multiple points of view of the protagonists, and grapple with the idea of partition without being overwhelmed by its tragedy.

Gurinder should be applauded for making an excellent period drama that shows the Mountbattens as they work out the details of partition. The film also has the tender love story between a Hindu man and Muslim woman. While also having a story that cleverly shows the displacement of her family during partition also. More importantly the excellent director shows how the partition of India was really to do with the secret strategy for the protection of British interests in Asia that inexorably led to India being divided.

Performance wise Hugh Bonneville is passable as a rather scatty Lord Mountbatten.; Gillian Anderson is excellent as the caring dominant wife of Mountbatten in her role, as Lady Mountbatten. She has a scene in the film where she flirts with Nehru briefly also. Lily Travers is great as their daughter, Pamela; and Michael Gambon as Lord Ismay is excellent. 

The Indian and Pakistani cast is led by Manish Dayal who does well as the man in love with a Muslim girl and suffering as a result of partition. Huma Qureshi does well in her role as the young Muslim girl caught up in affairs of the heart and her loyalty to her father. It was emotional seeing Om Puri as the father of Huma’s character, he was great as always in his cameo. The roles of the principal political leaders are played by Tanveer Ghani who is great as Nehru and Denzil Smith as Jinnah) and Neeraj Kabi as Gandhi are passable. Renowned Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans has an excellent cameo in a wedding scene singing a very popular Sufi song..

VICEROY’S HOUSE is a film that is both epic and intimate, with an inspirational message that celebrates tolerance. Many of the events depicted are either unknown or forgotten, but all have strong contemporary relevance in terms of lessons to be learnt concerning the politics of division and fear, the origins of religious extremism, and our moral responsibility towards migrants fleeing violence for a better life.

Put everything down and go and see this wonderful film. It has great acting, excellent

cinematography along with a story that resonates on many levels. A box office hit and a great film by Gurinder.

 

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