The final Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, is tasked with overseeing the transition of British India to independence, but meets with conflict as different sides clash in the face of monumental change.
‘Viceroy’s House’ is one of those films that I pretty much knew how I’d feel about it beforehand. That’s not to say I go into the cinema with my mind up, nor that it’s a bad thing, but everything about ‘Viceroy’s House’ screamed a safe adaptation of a fascinating period in history. My expectations were met and I’m OK with that, as I found ‘Viceroy’s House’ to be a fitfully effective film about the end of British rule in India, and the events that led to the partition of the country and the creation of Pakistan as an independent state.
The film begins in 1947 as the new (and to be last) Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) arrives to oversee the transition to Indian independence, dealing with the challenges presented to him between the differing viewpoints for what an India beyond British rule should look like. Director Gurinder Chadha’s approach to the subject is to look at the issues at hand through a ‘Downton Abbey’ style lens, viewing the upcoming changes through the eyes of the political elite and the ordinary citizens currently working for the Viceroy and his people. I can understand the reasoning behind this choice, but I felt the downstairs element didn’t tackle the themes as effectively as the interactions upstairs, mainly down to a star crossed lovers storyline that didn’t really work for me, despite the earnestness in the performances from Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi. I found the political elements incredibly engaging and informative, if feeling a little like a history lesson at times, but I thought the personal moments lacked in comparison.
Gurinder Chadha has a personal link to the story as we find out just before the credits, and this is clearly a labour of love, but I think in compromising with some of the narrative choices in order to tell a broad and all encompassing story, the film loses some of its power. That being said, ‘Viceroy’s House’ is a reasonably well made piece of filmmaking and I know more about the topic it covers as a result of seeing it, and overall I’d consider that a success.
Directed By: Gurinder Chadha
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, Simon Callow, Lily Travers, Om Puri, Simon Williams, Sarah-Jane Dias, Samrat Chakrabarti and Neeraj Kabi