Viceroy’s House – MOVIE REVIEW
Review by Geoff Jenke
Viceroy’s House in Delhi was the home of the British rulers of India. After 300 years the 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.
Director Gurinder Chadha was born in India in 1960, well after the events of the movie took place. She was determined to tell the story of the separation of India in which a million people died and over fourteen million people displaced.
Within this story there is another story of forbidden love between two of Viceroy’s House employees. This side story shows the effect the partition of the country had on the ordinary people of the country.
Both Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson are superb as the Mountbatten’s. Lord Mountbatten caught between a rock and a hard place trying to oversee the planned departure of the British from India and Lady Mountbatten as a caring, sympathetic woman with genuine humanity and compassion. The support roles are also well cast.
The film was shown from a British point of view so it is slightly biased and some facts may have been left out. After all the BBC were involved in the making of it, not that this is a bad thing. The BBC makes quality movies and this one is no exception.
The use of actual “Movietone” footage from 1947 adds to the authenticity of the film. Black and white footage of the actors interspersed within this old footage is effectively done.
Viceroy’s House is a moving, gripping, yet touching film highlighting one of the twentieth century’s biggest refugee crises. A film that should be on your “must see” list.
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Manish Dayal and Huma Qureishi.