A labour of love for the past 7 years, Director Gurinder Chadha (whose past credits include crowd-pleasers Bend It Like Beckham and Bride & Prejudice) has crafted a wonderful romantic drama set against the backdrop of India’s last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville). This absorbing tale is a perfect marriage of love and history, cultivating a film that delves into the untold true stories of the turmoil that surrounded the break-up of India.
It’s 1947 and India is on the brink of independence from British rule. Mountbatten and his wife Edwina (a sensational Gillian Anderson) work hard to try and make the transition peaceful as escalating civil unrest threatens to breakout. Working at the Viceroy’s House is Jeet (Manish Dayal), a young Hindu who has a romantic history with a Muslim girl also posted there named Aalia (Huma Qureshi). As they struggle to be together, Mountbatten faces a near impossible task as political and cultural tensions rise.
Chadha, who also co-scripted the film with Paul Mayeda Berges and Moira Buffini, delivers her most accomplished piece of work yet. It manages to hit every mark with a sensational eye for beauty and a compelling tale at its core. This is helped along by a sensational ensemble of world talent who all deliver stunning turns.
Hugh Bonneville is excellent as Lord Mountbatten and his natural chemistry with Gillian Anderson is effortlessly enjoyable. Anderson delivers her best performance since Scully from The X-Files, with a performance peppered with genuine care and compassion that really does justice to the work Edwina did all those years ago. The political minefield that Lord Mountbatten had to navigate is a fascinating and tragic one, and it’s very important to hear, especially in today’s heated climate of change.
A film like this needs to base its entire structure on a believable central romance and in Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi, Viceroy’s House finds its true heart and soul. The pair are excellent here, delivering a love story that’s so easy to champion. The late, great Om Puri plays Aalia’s father and steals every one of his scenes with his majestic presence.
Michael Gambon, Simon Callow and Lily Travers lend excellent support too. Perhaps the most captivating turns though are from Neeraj Kabi as Mahatma Gandhi, Denzil Smith as Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Tanveer Ghani as Jawaharlal Nehru who really bring these famous leaders vividly to life. Their exchanges with Bonneville are also fascinating and really draw you into the narrative.
Viceroy’s House is an informative and deeply moving epic that uses history as a wonderful device to tell an involving story full of passion and intrigue. With this ensemble of outstanding quality onboard, it’s easy to see why the film is such a resounding success. Emotional and sadly, quite relevant, in today’s troubling times, Viceroy’s House is a stark and important reminder of the pain and suffering that follows when division alienates humankind.
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Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, Om Puri, Jaz Deol, Michael Gambon, Simon Callow, Lily Travers, Neeraj Kabi, Denzil Smith, Tanveer Ghani, Darshan Jariwala, Arunoday Singh Director: Gurinder Chadha Writer: Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, Moira Buffini Released By: Pathe Certificate: 12A Duration: 106 mins Release Date: 3rd March 2017