Viceroy's House

2017-07-28 08:09
 

What it's about:

The final Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, is tasked with overseeing the transition of British India to independence, but meets with conflict as different sides clash in the face of monumental change.

What we thought:

The Partition of India in 1947 was a violent yet major historical event that shaped the future of not only India but of Southeast Asia as well. Viceroy’s House retells the events that shaped the creation of Islamic Pakistan based on the book The Shadows of the Great Game by Narendra Singh Sarila, but there are some who question the historical accuracy of the events represented in the film. I would have had more doubts about the veracity of the film if not for the fact that the British director Gurinder Chadha (Bend it like Beckham) is of Indian descent. Though the Viceroy comes off as a ‘white saviour’ here to fix all of India’s problems before they secede completely from Britain, the film harshly lays out his flaws and that of his government’s, while the inclusion of an Indian romance personalises the trauma India went through as a nation.

Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) is the last Viceroy of India sent to the country on the verge of independence to help resolve the conflict between Indian Muslims, who want their own state, and Indian Hindus who wish to have a unified India. The struggle trickles down to the Viceroy’s staff, as his Hindu manservant (Manish Dayal) falls in love with a Muslim woman (Huma Qureshi) who assist’s the Viceroy’s wife (Gillian Anderson).

I can’t say I’m a big history buff, but I did find the events in the film quite interesting despite the content matter feeling very far removed from myself. The romance between Jeet and Aalia helped give the events a more personable angle and made the audience invested in what happened to India. Like most historical drama, the story followed a very linear plot and though we know how it turns out in the end, you still want to find out what happened to the people that were closely involved in shaping these events. Despite Lord Mountbatten being placed at the centre of events, he doesn’t dominate the conversation as an old white British man and the script leaves space for the Indian cast to stake their claim in the film. I do feel that although Muslim Indians were represented well enough, the film slanted quite a bit in favour of the Hindus, and other historical reports were not as favourable of Mountbatten as he was portrayed in this film. Also, Lady Mountbatten was a much more fascinating person in real life (including an affair with the Prime Minister of India) and in the film only focused on her charity work during the conflict.

From a cinematic perspective, the whole cast gave great performances, especially from Dayal and Qureshi, who had an electric chemistry and were truly the heart of the film. Bonneville and Anderson were stiffer in their performances in that typical British fashion, but it suited their characters very well. The script was well-written and concise, and the emotional aspects of the story were not shallow attempts at making the audience weep, but instead were deeply felt through the performers’ and director’s talent.

Viceroy’s House is a good film and although historical accuracy will always haunt historical dramas, at least you can feel content in the fact that a white American director didn’t take on a story that should be told by the Indian nation, and the filmmakers have also dubbed the film in Hindi for release in India. This is how inclusive cinema works and hopefully one day Hollywood will understand what that really means.

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