Film: The Viceroy’s House
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Om Puri, Simon Williams, Denzil Smith, Tanveer Ghani, Neeraj Kabi, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, Simon Callow, Sarah Jane Dias, Darshan Jariwalla, Asif Ali Beg
Director: Gurinder Chaddha
The personal is the political and who better to negotiate the pain of Partition than UK based Gurinder Chadha whose family was among those displaced in that communal holocaust? As for your reviewer, one must strike a personal note, for a not too distant relative, Antonio Piedade da Cruz painted art patrons (Sir Cowasjee Jehangir) Maharajas (Hari Singh of Kashmir) industrialists (Birlas) and India’s last Viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville channelling Downton Abbey) and his wife, Lady Edwina (Gillian Anderson) whose palatial residence is the setting for Chaddha’s new film. At the same time, Great Uncle Cruzo’s Churchgate studio was an adda for artists, writers and freedom fighters, notably those opposing Portuguese rule in Goa.
Like many artistes, Chadha resorts to creative licence and co-writers Paul Mayeda Berges (her husband) and Moira Buffini take liberties with historical facts. As did the Master of Epic, David Lean to whom Chadha is now being compared. I will not. Suffice to say, then that this timely retelling of The Great Dissection ignores the relationship between Lady Edwina and Pandit Nehru (Tanveer Ghani) whose deep affection for the Viceroy’s missus was well-known.
For, Panditji wore his heart on his sleeve, like the rose in his jacket. But did they have an affair? I think not. I am not asking you, gentle reader to put on your sceptic spectacles but great love doesn’t have to be sexualised; love can be purely, madly intense in the most testing of times, something that Chadha depicts with sympathy in the romance between the Hindu youth (Manish Dayal) and Muslim girl (Huma Qureishi) So, is Chadha’s latest labour of love Leanesque? Or Attenboroughian? Not by a long shot. But Chadha is her own woman, helming a wonderfully talented cast which includes the late, great Om Puri as a freedom fighter and Michael Gambon of Harry Potter fame as General Ismay. The film has also been dubbed in Hindi as Partition 1947 for release in cinemas across India.