Reviewed byceri-edwards2Vote: 9/10/10
I am a bit of a fan of Gurinder Chadha's work Bhaji on the Beach,What's Cooking Paris Je t'aime and Bend it being my favourites)and wasaware that she intended to make this film many years ago and as I alsohave an interest in the history of India as plundered by the UK I havebeen keenly awaiting its release.
I had heard some ropy reviews, particularly from BBC radio 3. also asuggestion of being over reaching and 'Downtonesque' from the film 2017cast. Thankfully this didn't put me off.
Just back from seeing this film.
I am not disappointed, in fact my expectations were far exceeded. oneof the features of her films is always love. She has the ability toconvey the emotion of utterly horrible things without doing the clichéshowing and perpetuating violence.
The highlights for me. the portrayal of the involvement and point ofview of his wife, unexpectedly well played by Gillian Anderson ( notthat I don't like her, I just couldn't imagine her in this role. Theportrayal of the viewpoint shared by the staff - which is of course thepoint of view of the Indians so roughly treated by the raj and how sheputs us in their position so we really see it from their eyes, I feltlike I was peeping through doors with them. The history was toldclearly and unflinchingly without the violence being centre stage -that's been done and done again. Gurinder showed us the effect onpeople. All this was made almost palatable and certainly accessible bythe device of the young lovers, cruelly torn apart by the partition.
Why 9 points and not ten? well despite illustrating that there wasskulduggery afoot amongst the government I do think Dicky was painted alittle too upright, straightforward and honest and I just don't believethat. However, I do not profess to know the history so well and may bewrong.
Reviewed byCineMuseFilmsVote: 8/10/10
While the period-drama is an excellent medium for 'learning' history,stories of the past have better box-office prospects when fact andfiction are combined. Many films in this genre invent a love- story tohumanise the bigger narrative and for this reason the exquisitely madeViceroy's House (2017) combines two stories in one film: a sweepinghistorical epic of the last Raj and a classic Romeo and Juliet tale offorbidden love. Although films in this genre have responsibility forfact- based storytelling, we need to keep in mind that history itselfis an amalgam of viewpoints rather than a single absolute truth.
The Second World War had left Britain almost bankrupt and her militarymight severely depleted. In 1947, after three centuries of colonialrule, Britain had no option but to 'grant' India independence. Lord andLady Mountbatten (played by Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson) hadarrived into a political mess with the impossible task of peacefullywithdrawing from India. There was widespread sectarian violence betweenHindu, Muslim and Sikh populations, demands for independence were atfever-pitch, and a full-scale civil war was looming. Britain wasill-equipped to maintain peace or to protect its strategic assets,particularly against Russian expansionism. The British government'spolitical solution was to partition India, thereby creating the nationof Pakistan for its minority Muslim population, leaving the re-shapedIndian continent for its Hindu and Sikh people. The proclamation ofindependence and the partition precipitated the largest humanitariancrisis the world has seen: over a million died in the ensuing violenceas fifteen million displaced refugees re- aligned their nationalloyalties with their religion.
Depicted as being at the epicentre of this historic political turmoil,the Viceroy's House is also the cinematic frame for exploring thechaotic tragedy at human level. Woven into the bigger narrative is alove story between Hindu manservant Jeet (Manish Dayal) and Muslimhandmaiden Aalia (Huma Qureshi). When the partition is announced, theyare torn apart as she must move to the new Pakistan. The 500 servantsin the palatial Mountbatten household spend most of the film squabblingin a microcosm of what is happening across the country. Each mustchoose which side of the partition they belong. Throughout the chaos,the Mountbattens are portrayed as benevolent but helpless instrumentsof historical and political forces.
A film that compresses a monumental story into one and three quarterhours will inevitably be both selective and reductive. As cinema, thisis an outstanding work. The filming is sumptuous, the setsmagnificently authentic, the acting is excellent, and the narrativeunfolds with epic grandeur. For those who know little about the lastRaj the film will fill many gaps. But as history, it is inevitablyselective. Most glaring is the benign portrait of a compassionatedeparting colonial power. This glosses over the preceding centuries ofexploitation and Britain's duplicitous political posturing thatresulted in tearing apart the Indian nation in the dying days of theEmpire. Aside from that caveat, this is a superb production.
Reviewed bydavidgeeVote: 7/10/10
This is a slightly 'potted' version of the events of 1947 when LordLouis Mountbatten was sent to Delhi to preside over India's transitionfrom unruly colony to full Independence. Mountbatten and Nehru wanted asingle nation of two faiths, but Whitehall - for reasons which themovie attempts to explain, briefly and simplistically - preferred theoption of Partition, creating the new Muslim nation of Pakistan, with adown-sized India populated mostly by Hindus. As we know from ourschooldays - and other (better) movies like Richard Attenborough'sGANDHI - millions of citizens died in clashes and massacres as Muslimsmigrated to Pakistan and Hindus to India. This new movie chooses toshow the carnage of Partition via newsreels rather than reenactments.
Gillian Anderson gives a vivid portrayal of Lady Edwina Mountbatten,terribly 'posh' but genuinely concerned for the displaced nativesduring the violent transition. Hugh Bonneville, still trapped in hisDowntown Abbey character, is rather wooden as Lord 'Dickie' (who wasprobably a bit wooden too). There is no hint of the much-gossiped-about affair between Lady M and Mr Nehru and likewise no hint that hislordship may have been an acquaintance (if not quite a Friend) ofDorothy. We see enough of Nehru and Jinnah to understand what was atstake in 1947 but for some reason Gandhi is largely written out of thisscreenplay.
To give the movie a bit more box-office appeal there is a Mills & Boonromance between two of the staff in the Viceroy's House, a beautifulMuslim secretary and a Hindu valet (also rather lovely). Thissoap-opera element brings unavoidable echoes of the (enormouslysuperior) Jewel in the Crown and a dash of Upstairs, Downstairs whichwas one of the many addictive pleasures of Downton.
There's not a lot that's wrong with Viceroy's House and much to enjoy:the costumes, the spectacle, the splendour that is colonial Delhi. Themovie does offer a 'History-lite' version of the birth of a nation. Iremind myself that this is exactly what GONE WITH THE WIND did with theAmerican Civil War - but (forgive me, please) I've never been a greatadmirer of GWTW.
New Dehli in March 1947. The huge and stately Viceroy's Palace is like a beehive. Its five hundred employees are busy preparing the coming of Lord Louis Mountbatten, who has just been appointed new (and last) viceroy of India by prime minister Clement Attlee. Mountbatten, whose difficult task consists in overseeing the transition of British India to independence, arrives at the Palace, accompanied by his Edwina, his liberal-minded wife and by his eighteen-year-old daughter Pamela. Meanwhile, in the staff quarters, a love story is born between Jeet, a Hindu, and Aalia, a Muslim beauty. Things will prove difficult - not to say very difficult - both on the geopolitical and personal level.