Britain’s link with India lasted 300 years and ended in hundreds of thousands of deaths of men, women and children as long simmering resentment surfaced among rival factions.
After the second world war, the decision was made to hand India back to its people and Lord Mountbatten and his family were sent over as he became the final Viceroy, tasked with getting a smooth transition.
Director Gurinder Chadha is best known for lighter movies such as Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice, but she handles this epic tale with great skill.
And at the end we discover that she has her own personal link with this era.
Watching the trailer, I feared the film may be more akin to an Indian Downton Abbey, especially with Hugh Bonneville as Mountbatten, plus Chicago-born former X-Files and The Fall favourite Gillian Anderson playing his wife, sporting a very upper class British accent.
But both show the Mountbattens to be people who cared about India, desperate to find a solution that would end the violence.
Considering how complicated the whole issue was back then, the movie does a very good job of presenting the basic facts, mixing in real news footage particularly well.
And the conflicts are distilled into a sub-plot as two workers in the Viceroy’s House, Jeet (Manish Dayal) and Aalia (Huma Qureshi) fall in love, despite the many barriers in their way (eg religion and family ties).
Michael Gambon as government official General Hastings Ismay and Simon Callow as lawyer Cyril Radcliffe, who was brought in to determine Pakistan’s border, round off a an accomplished cast that also includes the excellent Om Puri.
Overall, this is an excellent attempt to put over the human side of what was a very violent and disturbing period as the British Empire collapsed.
Film details: Viceroy’s House (12AG) 106mins
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Starring: Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Hugh Bonneville
Screening courtesy of Horsham Capitol