January 13 2017
GURINDER CHADHA’S next film, “Viceroy’s House” will get its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival (known popularly as ‘The Berlinale’).
It will screen there on Sunday, February 12. The film is set to release on March 3 in the UK and contains one of the finest international casts ever assembled in recent times.
This Partition drama, set in the tumultuous time of Britain’s withdrawal from India after some 300 years, stars Hugh Bonneville as Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, Gillian Anderson, one-time “X-Files” star as his wife, Edwina, and Michael Gambon and Simon Callow as senior and pivotal figures of the British Raj. There is also a love story played out by rising talents, Huma Qureshi (“Gangs of Wasseypur“, “Ek Thi Dayaan“) and Manish Dayal (“The Hundred-Foot Journey“).
We have sneak preview scene, described as ‘lawn scene’ (below) – watch it, it will give you a sense of the film and its themes and features all the film’s main characters and stars.
This is probably Chadha’s most personal film to date and is a long time passion project of hers.
She said: “I am honoured that VICEROY’S HOUSE has been selected by the Berlin Film Festival. My film is an inspirational intensely personal true story about the traumatic events that took place at the end of the British Empire in India, events that tore my own family apart. The Festival gives us a brilliant opportunity to showcase my passion project to a global audience.”
The film is released by Pathe internationally, except in India, where Reliance Entertainment will distribute. Thanks to them for the clip…
*POSTSCRIPT (DECEMBER 29 2017)*
AS WE WENT OFF LINE BETWEEN FEBRUARY AND MARCH (changing server hosts) some pieces that were posted on Facebook are now being published on the site as they should have been…
‘Viceroy’s House’ – Beautiful and powerful, director Gurinder Chadha goes about putting the record straight, telling us why…
IF WE WANT a better future for ourselves and our children, we must understand the past and not repeat its errors – so it is with Partition that the general narrative must change.
In five to 10 years, if Gurinder Chadha’s ‘Viceroy’s House’, which releases today (March 3), is the film people must watch to understand the impact of Partition, the British director will have achieved her goal and done us all a great service too.
She has brought her heart and soul to this and it deserves to do well because its cause and purpose are stronger than any one individual.
In an interview with wwwasianculturevulture.com Chadha told us: “My mother would say we all lived together, but because of the mischievousness of the English something happened (it sounds better in Punjabi).”
She argues that the British have for too long put the blame for Partition at the door of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims.
“I grew up believing it was always our fault,” Chadha opined. “It was the narrative we were taught – that we started fighting and killing each other and that we were the savages and we believed their narrative.”
This is not some airy-fairy, academic, indulgent posturing on her part. It is – and feels – politically urgent.
At present the idea that people of different faiths, and differing nationalities and ethnicities can live together harmoniously is coming under attack.
Her film is a powerful statement against the politics of division and she shows through the love story between the Hindu Jeet (Manish Dayal) and the Muslim Aalia (Huma Qureshi) that suspicion and fear are sometimes a graver enemy than the life we may want to pursue in search of dreams and happiness.
“The film has tremendous resonance today,” Chadha asserted. “When you have politicians and leaders criminalising a whole group of people, defining them by their religion, ethnicity or sexual preference.
“This plays into what happened 70 years ago.”
She added: “The power of this film is me saying: ‘Wait a moment, until we start looking into our own history and telling our own narratives, we are going to live under these misconceptions’”
Partition was a British manoeuvre, she believes.
Even Lord Louis Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville), as the last Viceroy of India, was a victim.
Churchill had floated plan to carve up India just after the war; Britain and America needed oil from the Middle East and Pakistan as a Muslim country would be friendly with the rich-oil Gulf states. The book, ‘The Shadow of the Great Game’ by former, diplomat, entrepreneur and stately prince, Narendra Singh Sarila goes into detail about this and Chadha acknowledges it.
“I do blame Churchill and the powers that be and the politics of control (for Partition),” Chadha stated.
She has said she would like British schoolchildren to be taught about colonial history – there is very little, if anything of it, in the general curriculum in Britain today.
As a young girl, she was dimly aware of Partition and its effects.
Her own family originated from what is now Pakistan and they made the fateful trek into India following Partition and then to East Africa, before settling in the UK.
“Like most of us (Punjabis) I have grown up under the shadow of the Partition and it’s always been there.
“My maternal grandmother came to live with us from Rawalpindi and she was still quite traumatised (by Partition), even watching TV, anything a little scary and she would want us to turn it off.
“She thought David Hunter from Crossroads (a popular 1970s/1980s ITV soap) was a Pathan.
“He looked a little bit like one. She used to get frightened and say things to us.
“We would be ‘Oh my God, she’s off on one’. We would say: ‘It’s okay, beti, this is set in Birmingham, he is English. Don’t worry’. She lived through it.”
It was a time when young women would think nothing of committing suicide by jumping in a well to avoid being raped.
Her family were forced to move into India and set up home in a refugee camp, which eventually turned into a permanent settlement.
“Viceroy’s House was first inspired by her experience of making the BBC documentary, ‘Who do you think you are’ – which traces a celebrity’s family roots.
In 2005, in conjunction with the programme, she went back to Jhelum, which today is in Pakistan and where her paternal grandfather had once constructed a grand house.
“I went there full of trepidation and people came out to greet me and it was very emotional.
“They said: ‘You are our daughter, we are honoured you are here, this is your home. Come back with your family.”
The old spirit still lived on, despite Partition.
“My Mum’s generation talked about it, everybody living side by side. She had Christian, Muslim, Hindu friends, everybody celebrated each other’s festivals and everyone was spiritual.
“Everyone was religious and it is what brought people and India together – and much as the British would like to divide and rule it was a fact that India was – and continues to be – a spiritual country.”
Viceroy’s House releases in the UK today – March 3.
ENTERTAINING, informative, well-acted and beautifully shot ‘Viceroy’s House’ is quite possibly one of the best period films of the last decade.
There is no shame in saying it has an ‘Upstairs-Downstairs’ or ‘Downton Abbey’ element to it – on the face of it most people would baulk at seeing a film about Partition as a form of entertainment or escapism.
But the characters in this are all relatable and wonderfully human and the writers have kept the story manageable and easily digestible.
The politics, so much as there is, is aptly and skilfully handled; perhaps, the love story between Jeet (Manish Dayal) and Aalia (Huma Qureshi) does not command the emotional heft it should, but in some ways Chadha’s very personal ending atones for that.
All in all, this is a beautiful production tackling a difficult and heavy subject – but Chadha has made it a real family film that anyone can ‘enjoy’ if they allow themselves to, by letting go of any preconceptions about the subject or the filmmaker.
ACV rating:**** (out of five)