Film Review – Viceroy’s House (2017)

Gurinder Chada is truly a determined filmmaker that has a good eye for a premise and a true talent for writing and directing. Her choices of premises will 90% of the time have an Asian influence theme due to her proud roots that are simply intriguing to gain knowledge about. ‘Bend it Like Beckham,’ ‘Bride and Prejudice’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Afterlife’ are to name but a few amazing films that tackle Asian culture becoming accustomed to Western culture. However in ‘Viceroy’s House’ comes her most personal and ambitious film yet. One may ponder the reason why that is? It is simply because it is her most educational, biographical and historical film to date.

In 1947, Lord Mountbatten (Hugh 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. Part of the film is about how people of different religions must put their differences aside and work together to serve the Viceroy and his family. Sadly most people know that this is easier said than done. It is intriguing to see that there are no graphic or cruel British racial stereotypes towards Indian’s and if there are it is admirable that Gillian Anderson’s Edwina Mountbatten, wife to the Viceroy promotes equality and respect for her servants. Anderson’s performance is charming as she discourages prejudice and desires what most people yearn for which is for all religions to be in peace and harmony.

A huge subplot, straying aside from the politics of partition is the loving relationship between a Muslim personal assistant and a Hindu servant. Huma Qureshi plays the beautiful Aalia in a strong and vulnerable manner, whereas the striking, masculine Manish Dayal as Jeet brings a fascinating theme of Romeo wooing his Juliet. The viewer may ask themselves are these our leading characters or pivotal characters of the film? To put it bluntly, they are the supporting characters that convey the common tragedies of relationships that still occur today. It may make the viewer decide that religion can be a beast as it always interferes with love as well as the prejudice people in their midst.

Gurinder Chada has written and directed a film of educational and historical facts. It is also a risk for her to not show the brutality that took place as India and Pakistan were to be divided. It is a fact that many brutal deaths occurred during the partition, hence to show this in an implied manner only, is a bold decision, unlike Richard Attenborough’s ‘Ghandi’ or Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List,’ a lack of violence in the film reduces the cruel factual realities. However, sometimes violence doesn’t need to dominate a film. As long as the humanistic and organic nature of powerful storytelling can take place, this is what counts most of all.

Viceroy’s House is worth watching in order to gain insight of how India and Pakistan divided. It is impressive that Chada makes the viewer decide who’s to blame for the tragedy that erupted. Was it the British Empire who abandoned the country to be independent leaving them in a terrible state? Or was it the people of different religions that caused the worst partition in history? You’ll decide by simply watching it.

|Aly Lalji

Drama, History | UK, 2017 | 12A | 3rd March 2017 (UK) | Pathe UK | Dir.Gurinder Chada | Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Hugh Bonneville, Manish Dayal, Om Puri, Huma Qureshi

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