Coming to theaters this Friday from director Gurinder Chadha and IFC Films is the story of the last viceroy of India with “Viceroy’s House.”
It is 1947 in New Delhi as everyone is preparing for the arrival of Lord Louis Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife Lady Edwina Mountbatten (Gillian Anderson). Newly appointed, Mountbatten is also the last viceroy of India and the great-grandson of Queen Victoria.
His job is almost immediate in the attempt to give India its independence. It isn’t going to be easy from the start. Lady Edwina sees the suffering of India’s people from the streets and wishes to waste no time in helping with their needs.
At the Viceroy’s Palace, Jeet (Manish Dayal) was a one time Hindu police officer and now wishes to be of service to the new viceroy. He sees Aalia (Huma Qureshi) who he has been in love with from the moment they met. When her father Om (Ali Rahim Noor) was jailed, it was Jeet who protected him. Wanting Aalia to understand his feelings, she reminds him that he is Hindu and she Muslim in a time of conflict between the two peoples.
As Mountbatten meets with leaders Nehru, Jinnah and the Mahatma Gandhi, a plan is being formed to allow two nations to be formed without further incident. Lady Edwina takes it upon herself to learn as much about the people of India as she can to help her husband understand their needs.
When meeting after meeting brings more challenges, it is the people of India who are suffering. When Aalia and her family have to leave New Delhi, Jeet is devastated and realizes that everything is being torn apart. Soon after the violence begins and people are fleeing to New Delhi looking for help from the Viceroy.
Mountbatten needs a little help of his own when he discovers that his position isn’t what he believed which could easily destroy the relationships he has tried to hard to cultivate. Those he trusted, Gen. Lionel Hastings Ismay (Michael Gambon), Cyril Radcliffe (Simon Callow) and Archie Wavell (Simon Williams) seem to know something deliberately kept from Mountbatten.
Brother turning on brother, this story tells the heartache of a country and its people who were not prepared for what was to come.
Dayal as Jeet is such an amazing actor. I first saw him in “The One Hundred Foot Journey” and was brought into a story that was so beautifully told (and I can’t pass it by when on cable). Here he is a young man who falls for a beautiful Muslim girl while caring for her father. He holds his love for her so dear that nothing – not even culture or religion can change his heart.
Bonneville as Mountbatten arrives with every intent to work with Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah to make the transition. Perhaps a bit naïve that it would happen without incident, Bonneville gives his character true heart and the vision to believe that working together could accomplish everything equally. He is an actor who has the uncanny ability to draw me in and rally for the character. Yes, I’m a “Downton Abbey” fan but that only adds to liking this character.
Anderson as Lady Edwina is a no-nonsense character who knows what must be done and isn’t going to let anyone stand in her way of getting it done. She also is an amazing support system to her husband and doesn’t mind calling out a General or two when they overstep their boundaries. I just loved her attitude from start to finish and forgot she was Gillian Anderson – that’s how well done her character is.
Qureshi as Aalia is a young woman caught between two worlds. Ever the dutiful daughter, she keeps her feelings for Jeet aside when her father is pleased to marry her to a soldier returning from England who is Muslim. The pain is believable and Qureshi’s performance made me very sad and I won’t say any more.
Other cast include: Nicholas Blane as Sir Olaf Kirkpatrick Caroe, Samrat Chakrabarti as Mohsin, Arunoday Singh as Asif, Lily Travers as Lady Pamela Hicks, Lucy Fleming as Lady Wavell, Denzil Smith as Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Terence Harvey as Sir Fred Burrows, Tanveer Ghani as Jawaharlal Nehru, Jas Deol as Duleep Singh and Neeraj Kabi as Mahatma Gandhi.
“Viceroy’s House” is visually stunning with all the finery and costuming done up brilliantly. That is so important to me when a film asks me to take a little time travel journey into a story. I am taken in by the pageantry and traditional clothing of that era. The cinematography is equally as stunning with the richness of colors that the story brings with it.
This is a story I did not know about the independence of India. I know the story of Gandhi very well and own the film by the same name made in 1982 with Ben Kingsley in the starring role. “Viceroy’s House” could easily slide right next to “Gandhi” and add to the richness and more detail of a story that many might not have known before.
The mixture of history with a personal story of Jeet and Aalia is heartbreaking. Jeet played by Dayal is caught between loving someone he is told he can’t have and breaking with traditions against someone he respects – her father.
This is a majestically told story and breathtaking film that needs to be experiences. This week please head to the theaters and be part of “Viceroy’s House.”
In the end – it is the end of an empire and the birth of two nations!