Viceroy's House

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Viceroy's House
"Such an important story cannot be squeezed into 106 minutes. The politics are complex and the religious conflict on a Syrian scale of horror"

Churchill called it "the worst job in the world". Mountbatten disagreed: "Burma was worse." What are they talking about? The official handover of power between the British colonial empire and a fledgling nation, in this case the jewel in the crown.

Such an important story cannot be squeezed into 106 minutes. The politics are complex and the religious conflict on a Syrian scale of horror.

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Partition or not partition, that is the question. Jinnah wants a fair chunk of land to the north for his people in a country to be called Pakistan. Nehru wants a unified India under his control. Mountbatten does not believe in partition but as the riots between Muslims and Hindus increase in ferocity each day, he feels he has no choice but to support the Pakistan option.

Gurinder Chadha's film brushes the surface with a delicate hand, never indulging in violence for its own sake. She uses a romantic subplot between a servant in the viceroy's house and a beautiful girl from the country as an emotional metaphor for what is happening in the streets, which takes up too much time, allowing Mountbatten's diplomacy to fall short of its true value.

The actors playing Nehru, Jinnah and Gandhi are perfect lookalikes and Gillian Anderson, as Edwina Mountbatten, gives a performance that resonates excellence. Edwina's friendship with Nehru is not even hinted at, let alone indulged, and so she appears as a strong, sympathetic, left leaning, independent woman at the centre of history.

Hugh Bonneville has the disadvantage of having to separate Mountbatten from the popular image of Downton's lord of the manor. He does so with energy and charm.

"Let's not make a mess of it," Dickie tells Edwina after they arrive. They don't.

There is pomp and there is ceremony. There are massacres and relationships torn apart by religious difference.

"India is a ship on fire."

Putting it out must wait for the engines of another director.

Reviewed on: 03 Mar 2017
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Viceroy's House packshot
In 1947, Lord Mountbatten 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.

Director: Gurinder Chadha

Writer: Paul Mayeda Berges, Moira Buffini, Gurinder Chadha

Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Simon Callow, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, Om Puri, Lily Travers, Tanveer Ghani, Dezil Smith, Neeraj Kabi

Year: 2017

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK, India

Festivals:

BIFF 2017

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