Important History Lesson
Back in 1947 while I was in high school worrying about passing World History, Lord Mountbatten was busy making history. His assignment? Presiding over England’s withdrawal from India after centuries of British rule. Appointed as the last Viceroy, Mountbatten was charged with bringing Hindu and Muslim groups together to establish India as a self-governing nation. Viceroy’s House, a cinematic gem starring Hugh Bonneville as Mountbatten, deals with this complicated historical situation.
The movie excels in showing different viewpoints about whether Pakistan and India should be separate states. And it includes realistic portrayals of historical figures like Gandhi (Neera Kabi) and Nehru (Tanveer Ghani). It also gives us some understanding of the terrible human suffering caused by the partitioning process.
Being an incurable romantic, I particularly enjoyed the poignant romance between a young Hindu man and Muslim woman, played by Manish Dayal (The Hundred Foot Journey) and Huma Quereshi (D-Day). The chemistry between these two seemingly doomed lovers tugged at my heartstrings.
Another standout is Gillian Anderson (X-Files: I Want To Believe). She delivers a wonderful stiff-upper-lip performance as Lady Edwina Mountbatten, a dedicated wife who desperately wants her husband to succeed -- but not at the expense of the people of India.
Despite all these positive elements, nothing would work as well in Viceroy’s House without a credible Lord Louis Mountbatten. Fortunately, Bonneville (Downton Abbey) definitely does justice to this key role. He projects a reasonable, compassionate manner which makes viewers hope for the man’s success. However, Bonneville’s Mountbatten also comes across as a man who could be manipulated – and that serves the plot well.
Mountbatten tried to make a plan
for India and Pakistan.
But anger raised its ugly head,
resulting in immense bloodshed.
“Viceroy’s House” brings history
to life on screen and now we see
partitioning made things much worse.
In fact, some called it England’s curse.
Gorgeous scenes mix with teeming throngs
and ask who is to blame for wrongs.
Fascinating -- a film well-made,
“Viceroy’s House” earns a top grade.
Ben Smithard’s (Belle) cinematography deserves special recognition. Shots of the palatial Viceroy mansion take your breath away. Also of note are Susie Lewis’ (Mr. Holmes) wonderful period costumes and A. R. Rahman’s (Slumdog Millionaire) background music. Both help create the appropriate atmosphere for this important history lesson. Directed with great care by Gurinda Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), this splendid motion picture should be shown in all World History classes.
(Released by IFC Films and rated 12A by the BBFC for brief distressing images.)
For more information about Viceroy’s House, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.