Earlier this month Gurinder Chadha's Viceroy's House premiered in the UK, after having its world premiere at the Berlinale on February 12th, 2017. I have to admit that I didn't know much about the topic featured in the movie but I soon found it incredibly intriguing.
Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) is an English film director, who is of Punjabi Sikh Kenyan Asian origin and most of her films explore the lives of Indians living in England. Viceroy's House, on the other hand, has a different topic; a topic with personal connections.
"You're giving a nation back to its people, how bad can it be?"
I'm so glad that I had the chance to watch Viceroy's House in London last week and I remember leaving the cinema with a variety of mixed emotions. I was shocked but deeply moved and touched by what I have seen.
The movie takes us back to 1947, a time when a huge part of the world was still reeling from the repercussions of WWII. Lord and Lady Mountbatten are sent to India. After being under British command for about 300 years it was decided that India should be free from Britain and Lord Mountbatten, as last Viceroy of India, was appointed with the peaceful transition.
A process that, in the end, caused the greatest mass immigration in human history, with nearly 14 million people being displaced and turned into refugees overnight.
Lord Mountbatten, also known as "Dickie" (portrayed by Hugh Bonneville), lives upstairs in the house with his family while about 500 Hindu, Muslim and Sikhs live downstairs as servants. The story unfolds within the house, Viceroy's House. Dickie is a man determined to keep India united under his watch and lead the impending partition as smooth and peaceful as possible. Next to Dickie, there's a second striking figure standing out permanently throughout the movie: Lady Edwina Mountbatten, portrayed by the wonderful Gillian Anderson. I was fascinated by her role the entire time and by how different she seemed from any other character I had seen Gillian portray before. I suppose that's what makes a great actress; the ability to make every character as unique and authentic as possible.
While Lord Mountbatten is appointed with politics and the upcoming transition, his wife sets off to change things a little stating that "from now on there will be more Indians of all faiths around our table."
I was impressed by the way she portrayed Lady Edwina Mountbatten throughout the movie. An incredibly determined and strong woman who was praised for her heroic efforts to relieve the misery after the violent disruptions following the partition of India. Of course, this was only one side of the coin. While we get insight into what it had been like for the Mountbattens, we also find out what it was like for all those people working in Viceroy's House, be it as servants or in any other role. I guess no movie is entirely complete without a rather tragic love story and with Jeet (Manish Dayal) and Aalia (Huma Qureshi) I found myself enjoying what I saw. It didn't feel forced or out of place just for the sake of throwing something cheesy into such a tragic situation that cost so many lives. I found it very moving and I remember having tears in my eyes when they were separated.As things slowly take a turn for the worse, you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat. I've met many people who didn't even know about what happened in India so many years ago; myself included. I had heard things here and there, but I have never been aware of how serious it had been. Although it seems so far away it feels like this topic is still relevant today with so many people being turned into refugees because of war, destruction and political beliefs and it made me incredibly sad that we don't seem to have learned anything from history.
I believe this movie depicts a topic that should matter to everyone, now more than ever, and I think it couldn't have come at a better time. If you haven't seen this movie by now, you should definitely go and see it. It is something that matters to all of us, no matter where you come from.It was a deeply-moving experience and seeing all of the real footage in the end, including a family picture of Gurinder Chadha, left a lingering impression and a feeling of being grateful for what I have that hasn't vanished since I left the cinema. The movie has wonderful scenery and an incredibly beautiful soundtrack by A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire).
I remember that one second, when the movie showed actual footage of Edwina and Lord Mountbatten, and for a split second it was hard to tell whether it was Edwina or Gillian. I think the casting couldn't have been more perfect on all accounts.The movie also starred Michael Gambon as General Hastings Ismay, Lily Travers as Lady Pamela Mountbatten, the late Om Puri as Ali Rahim Noor, Tanveer Ghani as Jawaharlal Nehru, Denzil Smith as Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Neeraj Kabi as Mohandas Gandhi.
Viceroy's House premiered in UK cinemas on March 3, 2017 and will be released in Germany and India in August, 2017.