In 1947 the UK parliament passed the Indian Independence Act, giving India its independence after two hundred years of British rule. Viceroy’s House tells the incredible true story of the final months of British rule in India as Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) is tasked with overseeing the transition. He is met with fierce conflict as different sides clash in the face of monumental change which ultimately led to a country divided, the partition of India.
Viceroy’s House is without a doubt a very powerful and moving film depicting a huge historical event in British and Indian history, although it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The film is fairly slow paced and the dialogue dominates the telling of the story. Viceroy’s House is based upon a true story portrayed from Lord Mountbatten’s perspective, therefore most of what is happening in India at that time is revealed through his conversations with the other characters, rather than portrayed visually.
The audience is probably less inclined to take in information and be entertained by something they are told compared to something they are shown. For this reason, it can be hard to follow at times and easy to lose track of everything that is going on. Politics also play a huge part in the film, vital to the portrayal of Lord Mountbatten’s story, however that may not be your idea of entertainment. Watching Viceroy’s House is more like watching a Sunday night drama on the BBC rather than watching an epic movie.
That’s not to say that’s a negative thing, Viceroy’s House will be right up your street if you love BBC dramas and more meaningful genres. Hugh Bonneville has been cast perfectly as the noble Lord Mountbatten and Gillian Anderson’s performance as Lady Edwina Mountbatten stands out for all of the right reasons. She puts in a great performance as the loyal wife, who understands and supports her husband no matter what during a hugely important and uncertain time.
The film is also visually stunning. Set against an exotic Indian backdrop, director Gurinder Chadha captures beautifully the incredible surroundings of India. Interestingly the film has a personal meaning to Chadha as her grandparents were caught up in the midst of the partition, made homeless overnight and forced to become refugees. The director’s ability to be able to personally relate to the narrative makes Viceroy’s House succeed in being a truly emotive film.
A forbidden love sub narrative also unfolds within the drama, as a Hindu (Manish Dayal) and Muslim (Aalia Noor) fall in love during a time when these two religions were caught up in a vicious conflict. They are of course torn apart only to be reunited once again which all seems very predictable and a bit Hollywood, although Chadha states that this part of the story is also based on true events. Her own grandparents were separated in the chaos and after eighteen months of searching refugee camps her grandfather managed to find and be reunited with his wife and family.
This week marks the 70th anniversary of the partition of India, a moment in history that many have little knowledge of. A historical event that ran far from smoothly where an estimated 15 million people became refugees and an estimated 1 million lost their lives in the conflict. Viceroy’s House is a great attempt at portraying these events although arguably one sided.
The film portrays the events mostly from the British perspective, very little is portrayed from the Indian perspective and from the very people whose lives were massively affected.
Viceroy’s House is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.
Dir: Gurinder Chadha
Prd: Paul Mayeda Berges & Gurinder Chadha
Scr: Paul Mayeda Berges & Moira Buffini & Gurinder Chadha
Starring: Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Hugh Bonneville
Music: A.R. Rahman
Country: UK, India