Pomp And Circumstance
The Viceroy’s House
Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, Michael Gambon, Simon Callow, Lily Travers, Om Puri and Neeraj Kabi
Director: Gurinder Chadhaand
Scriptwriters: Paul Mayeda Berges, Moira Buffini and Chadhaand
Composer: A. R. Rahman
Cinematographer: Ben Smithard
BBC Films/20th Century Fox
Running Length: 106 minutes
The independence of India has been a subject for films for many years. The British production of “The Jewel In The Crown” 20 years ago, has long been a favorite television series. The latest venture into India’s history is by filmmaker Gurinder Chadhaand, whose grandmother was one of the refugees involved in the separation of India into two countries, India (Hindu) and Pakistan (Muslim.) Looking back into history, the pision was not done for humanitarian purposes, but to protect oil rights. Even in the mid-1940’s, oil was---and still is---a prime concern. Who could have foretold the consequences in years to come. Great Britain’s Lord Louis Mountbatten (well played by Hugh Bonneville from “Downton Abbey”) and his wife, Lady Edwina (a skillful Gillian Anderson) are the two actors you will recognize immediately.
Mountbatten is selected as the Last Viceroy of India and after India’s independence, there will be no more British rule. You see old statues of Queen Victoria being taken down, and how the staff, well trained in British manners, wonders what to do afterward? Especially the chefs---will anyone want High Tea anymore? Mountbatten is a friendly man and discusses things with his wife, who has a keen perception of what is going on. They think they will have months for all of the details, but find it will only be a matter of weeks. News no one wants to hear.
In the meantime, there is a side story of a romance between a Muslim woman, Aalia (Huma Qureshi) who is a secretary in the Viceroy’s house and a security guard, Jeet (Manish Dayal) who is Hindu. They don't mind, but have to be secretive about their friendship because of the beliefs of her father. Her family selected fiance wants to marry her right away, but she stalls and he doesn't know why. In the meantime, as news of the separation of India becomes public, there are riots, violence in the streets, rail systems and evacuations. The heads of states of India and Pakistan just can't agree on anything. What to do?
The cinematography is beautiful, and sets the tone for a part of the world that knows beauty from architecture to gardens. A. R. Rahman’s music (won the Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire”) connects the scenery with the storyline. Acting is well done, especially Hugh Bonneville’s Mountbatten who is gradually finding out that being the Last Viceroy just might mean keeping out of danger, too. Michael Gambon as Lord Ismay is the type of person you would not want to play cards with. Tanveer Ghani as Nehru, gives us the sense of urgency to get the ball rolling for his new country.
It is always enjoyable to sit back and watch the actors do their work. Sometimes, as with Huma Qureshi and Manish Dayal, it seems like work as they go over the top in a few scenes. In others, the ease of slipping into character is like putting on a glove. Simon Callow as Cyril Radcliffe, a government advisor, can convey frustration with a lifted eyebrow. The pageantry of British rule in India is something to behold and this film is a history lesson in what not to do.
Copyright 2017 Marie Asner