Entertainment » Movies

Viceroy's House

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Sep 8, 2017
Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson star in 'Viceroy's House'
Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson star in 'Viceroy's House'  

Gurinder Chadha's well intended, but rather stilted, period drama "Viceroy's House," about how the British badly managed their withdrawal from India exactly 70 years ago, lands in movie theaters at a time when the UK is now making a mess out of leaving Europe. In telling the tale of how Britain ended up splitting India in two by creating Pakistan, Chadha mixes all the bloodshed and unrest it caused against the fading grandeur of the last remains of the British Empire, and throwing in a Hallmark-style romance between two servants for good measure.

It starts with the arrival in India of the King's cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville, playing another version of his "Downton Abbey" role) and his wife Lady Edwina (an excellent Gillian Anderson) as the last Viceroy and Vicerine to govern India and negotiate the handover of the country.

Mountbatten strives to please everyone, from the 500+ plus servants that run his palatial house to the leaders of all the many different political factions, whilst Edwina sets out to tackle the inbred racism of the Brit community, throwing herself into developing a more inclusive environment. She is a strong-willed woman and her husband's closest confidant and adviser, and he seems to care more about getting her approval than he does of the British Government back in London.

The plot is strewn with all the famous figures of the time such as Nehru, Gandhi, and Jinnah, and is quite the history lesson for those of us who never really knew how Partition came about. In true British fashion, whilst Mountbatten was very publicly negotiating how to please all the different political and religious factions, London dispatched a famous barrister Sir Cyril Radcliffe (Simon Callow) to Delhi to draw up the new countries' borders even though he had never been to India before. It was all a front, however, because unbeknownst to the two of them the ex-British Prime Minister had already drawn up a secret plan on how the country was to be carved up. This was the plan that would eventually be adopted.

Chadhi, who cut her teeth on successful indie movies such as "Bend It Like Beckham," relies heavily on her excellent production design team to re-create how extravagantly the ruling British lived; this proves to be the best aspect of this intriguing drama. However, even adding intimate details of the Mountbattens behind the scenes somehow doesn't relieve the constant feeling that one is watching an illustrated history lesson.

The inclusion of the love story between the servants seems awkwardly out of place, and the film's finale is uncomfortably jarring.

As well as singling out Anderson for her superb portrayal of the high-cheeked aristocratic Edwina, kudos to the late great Om Puri for his role as the blind father of one of the lovers.

Viceroy's House

Kumail is a Pakistani comic who meets an American graduate student named Emily at one of his stand-up shows. As their relationship blossoms, he soon becomes worried about what his traditional Muslim parents will think of her. When Emily suddenly comes down with an illness that leaves her in a coma, Kumail finds himself developing a bond with her deeply concerned mother and father.

Info

Runtime :: 106 mins
Release Date :: Sep 01, 2017
Language :: Silent
Country :: United Kingdom

Cast

Lord Mountbatten :: Hugh Bonneville
Edwina Mountbatten :: Gillian Anderson
Jeet :: Manish Dayal
Aalia :: Huma Qureshi
Ali Rahim Noor :: Om Puri
Muhammad Ali Jinnah :: Denzil Smith
Mahatma Gandhi :: Neeraj Kabi
General Hastings Ismay :: Michael Gambon
Cyril Radcliffe :: Simon Callow
Lady Pamela Hicks :: Lily Travers
Duleep Singh :: Jaz Deol
Archie Wavell :: Simon Williams
Guptaji :: Darshan Jariwala
Sameera :: Sarah-Jane Dias
Miss Reading :: Roberta Taylor
Mohsin :: Samrat Chakrabarti
Sir Fred Burrows :: Terence Harvey

Crew

Director :: Gurinder Chadha
Screenwriter :: Gurinder Chadha
Screenwriter :: Paul Mayeda Berges
Screenwriter :: Moira Buffini
Producer :: Paul Mayeda Berges
Producer :: Gurinder Chadha
Producer :: Deepak Nayar
Executive Producer :: Cameron McCracken
Original Music :: A.R. Rahman
Cinematographer :: Ben Smithard
Film Editor :: Valerio Bonelli
Film Editor :: Victoria Boydell
Casting :: Michelle Guish
Casting :: Seher Latif
Production Design :: Laurence Dorman
Art Director :: Ravi Srivastava
Art Director :: Mat Bergel
Set Decoration :: Seema Kashyap
Costume Designer :: Keith Madden


Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.


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