Sunday, September 10, 2017

Viceroy's House: Monday, September 4 2017

Viceroy's House is a historical drama, a British-Indian film directed by Gurider Chandha (57). It is written by Paul Mayeda Berges (48) Chandha's spouse, Moira Buffini, and Chandha. It is an accounting of events in the Viceroy's House shortly before, and during the Partition of India on August 15 1947. The Hindu version titled Partition: 1947 was released in India on August 18 2017, three days after the Indian 70th Independence Day.

Chandha says she used as her main sources, Freedom at Midnight (1975), by Larry Collins, and The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India's Partition (2006), by Narendra Singh Sarila, who based the book on secret documents discovered in the British Library.

Hugh Bonneville, of Downton Abbey fame, ably plays Lord Louis Montbatten. Gillian Anderson, an American actress best know for X-Files, plays Lady Edwina Mountbatten extremely well. Manish Dayal as Jeet, a Hindu, and Huma Queshi, a Muslim, as Aalia, play the young couple whose romance is complicated by their political and religious environment. Mahatma Gandhi is played by Neeraj Kabe; Jawaharial Nehru is played by Tanveer Chani; and Denzil Smith plays Mahammad Ali Hinnah.

Director Gurider Chandha
The story of the retreat of Britain from India is many-sided, and director Chandha has created a film that tells the story objectively. Ghandi, the leader of the Indian independence movement, had fermented rebellion using non-violent civil disobedience. It was made clear that the time had come for the British to leave India. Clement Attlee, the Labour Party Prime Minister of Britain, at the urging of the King, sent out Lord Mountbatten to oversee the handover of India. The Hindus wanted India to remain one country, inclusive of all its many different peoples. Violence had already broken out between the Muslims and Hindus, making the point that the Muslims wanted their own country. Mountbatten realised that to cut down the violence as much as possible, the whole process had to be as speedy as possible. Unable to obtain agreement between the Hindus led by Nehru, and the Muslims led by Jinnah, Mountbatten came to the conclusion the only solution was Partition of India. The country was divided into secular India and Islamic Pakistan. This triggered a huge relocation of 10 to 12 million people as Hindus were driven from Pakistan to India, and Muslims moved from India to Pakistan. This refugee crisis was accompanied by great violence.

I enjoyed Viceroy's House. This was a huge subject, and at times the film felt like a documentary. The romance between the two young people seemed to have been thrown into the story as an effort to make it more entertaining. I loved the too short Bollywood touch, a salute to the Indian film industry. The cinematography is colourful, and a feast for the eyes. The music by A.R. Rahman is delightful. The cast rose to the challenge, and were engaging. In spite of being a little bit rough in patches, the overall effect is entertaining.

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