The end of an empire. The birth of two nations.
Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson star in this historical drama set during the Partition of India. From the writer-director of Bend It Like Beckham.... More
In 1947, Lord Mountbatten (Bonneville) assumes the post of last Viceroy, charged with handing India back to its people, living upstairs at the house which was the home of British rulers, whilst 500 Hindu, Muslim and Sikh servants lived downstairs.Hide
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BY Adam Fresco Flicks Writer
Viceroy’s House is a costume drama, tragic history lesson, and star-crossed love story all rolled into one. It’s based on fascinating facts, with a top-notch cast (including Michael Gambon, Simon Callow and the late, great, Om Puri), lashings of lush scenery, impeccable suits, divine dresses, and sumptuous cinematography. But grand themes, sumptuous cinematography and good intentions do not necessarily an engaging movie make.... More
Focusing on Lord Mountbatten’s task (as Britain’s last Viceroy) of transitioning India from British Empire to independence over a tumultuous six-months in 1947, director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham, Bride and Prejudice) offers insight into historical events as experienced by individuals. As Mountbatten, Hugh Bonneville is in the familiar, stiff-upper-lipped, aristocratic territory of his Downton Abbey role. Gillian Anderson, as his wife Edwina, relishes a role fleshed out beyond mere window-dressing. Whilst upstairs the British toffs deliberate over the future of their nation, downstairs their staff, representatives of an India long subjugated by the British Raj, are divided across religious lines. And, just in case that metaphor should fail, there’s a subplot involving young lovers, one Hindu, one Muslim, tragically divided by India’s partition.
Despite such heavy-handed narrative devices, a sometimes plodding pace, and occasional dialogue seemingly lifted from a history textbook, stick with it and you’ll be rewarded. There’s interesting insight into the politics and people, era and events that led to division of India, and creation of Pakistan as a Muslim homeland, the ramifications of which are still playing out today. Intellectually engaging, yet emotionally detached, Viceroy's House is a fascinating tale that needs telling and looks great. Interesting, informative and well-acted, it may be, it’s still deserving of a far richer screenplay.Hide
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BY cinemusefilm superstar
The Second World War had left Britain almost bankrupt and her military might severely depleted. In 1947, after three centuries of colonial rule, Britain had no option but to ‘grant’ India independence. Lord and Lady Mountbatten (played by Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson) had arrived into a political mess with the impossible task of peacefully withdrawing from India. There was widespread sectarian violence between Hindu, Muslim and Sikh populations, demands for independence were at fever-pitch, and a full-scale civil war was looming. Britain was ill-equipped to maintain peace or to protect its strategic assets, particularly against Russian expansionism. The British government’s political solution was to partition India, thereby creating the nation of Pakistan for its minority Muslim population, leaving the re-shaped Indian continent for its Hindu and Sikh people. The proclamation of independence and the partition precipitated the largest humanitarian crisis the world has seen: over a million died in the ensuing violence as fifteen million displaced refugees re-aligned their national loyalties with their religion.
Depicted as being at the epicentre of this historic political turmoil, the Viceroy’s House is also the cinematic frame for exploring the chaotic tragedy at human level. Woven into the bigger narrative is a love story between Hindu manservant Jeet (Manish Dayal) and Muslim handmaiden Aalia (Huma Qureshi). When the partition is announced, they are torn apart as she must move to the new Pakistan. The 500 servants in the palatial Mountbatten household spend most of the film squabbling in a microcosm of what is happening across the country. Each must choose which side of the partition they belong. Throughout the chaos, the Mountbattens are portrayed as benevolent but helpless instruments of historical and political forces.
A film that compresses a monumental story into one and three quarter hours will inevitably be both selective and reductive. As cinema, this is an outstanding work. The filming is sumptuous, the sets magnificently authentic, the acting is excellent, and the narrative unfolds with epic grandeur. For those who know little about the last Raj the film will fill many gaps. But as history, it is inevitably selective. Most glaring is the benign portrait of a compassionate departing colonial power. This glosses over the preceding centuries of exploitation and Britain’s duplicitous political posturing that resulted in tearing apart the Indian nation in the dying days of the Empire. Aside from that caveat, this is a superb production.Hide