Viceroy’s House is a historical drama directed by Gurinder Chadha and stars Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, and Michael Gambon. The film is set in 1947 during the Partition of India and the primary focus of the film is on Lord Mountbatten (Bonneville). Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, is tasked with overseeing the transition of British India to independence. However, mounting religious conflict within India attempts to derail this transition as well as a blossoming romance between Jeet (Dayal), a Hindu manservant, and Alia (Qureshi), a Muslim assistant.
My Knowledge and Expectation of Viceroy’s House
The sole reason why I was interested in Viceroy’s House is due to the subject matter. Without a doubt, the Indian Independence Movement and the Partition of India are fascinating historical events that I have always had a keen interest in. In fact, one of the modules I took while studying for my degree in History was about this time period. Additionally, I find the film Gandhi to be one of the greatest bio-pics of all time. Going into this film, I was expecting to gain a new perspective about the Partition of India.
My Thoughts on Viceroy’s House
Overall, Viceroy’s House did everything it needed to do for me. It is a good film and the thing that impressed me most was that Chadha’s viewpoint about the Partition of India is put across very well. Certainly, the film is made for an audience who will have little to no knowledge about the Partition of India which means that there is a lot of exposition. Nevertheless, Viceroy’s House is never boring, simply because the exposition is about such an interesting event in history and the viewpoint put across by Chadha is intriguing.
Chadha’s film is one which portrays Lord Mountbatten as a powerless pawn within an imperial game in which Winston Churchill was the puppet-master. The film suggests that the Partition of India was planned by Churchill with the creation of Pakistan providing safety from the Soviet Union and safeguarding the UK’s oil interests. It is interesting to view the Partition of India in this light and I commend Chadha for telling this viewpoint in an uncomplicated way.
There are other qualities in Viceroy’s House that I admire. The score, composed by A. R. Rahman, is brilliant, the humour in the film is good and I thought the love story between Jeet and Alia was decent too. Additionally, the themes of the film such as division and religion were very profound, especially as it parallels to what is happening in the world today.
The performances in Viceroy’s House are fine. No one gives a great performance in the film but all of the cast are dependable and it is a solid ensemble performance. The one thing I did struggle to do was embrace the actors who played Jinnah, Nehru and Gandhi. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t bad and they certainly weren’t miscast. However, I have such a deep connection to the actors who played these iconic figures in Gandhi that I struggled to buy these new actors as these characters.
Still, this did not ruin my experience of watching Viceroy’s House. If you are looking for a cinematic introduction to learn about the history of the Indian Independence Movement and the Partition of India, I would recommend Gandhi over Viceroy’s House. However, once you watch Viceroy’s House, I doubt you will be disappointed as there are various elements of this film which you can appreciate.