The end of an empire. The birth of two nations. Viceroy’s House tells the true story of the final months of British rule in India.
Viceroy’s House in Delhi was the home of the British rulers of India. After 300 years, that rule was coming to an end. For 6 months in 1947, Lord Mountbatten, great grandson of Queen Victoria, assumed the post of the last Viceroy, charged with handing India back to its people.
The film’s story unfolds within that great House. Upstairs lived Mountbatten together with his wife and daughter; downstairs lived their 500 Hindu, Muslim and Sikh servants. As the political elite — Nehru, Jinnah and Gandhi — converged on the House to wrangle over the birth of independent India, conflict erupted. A decision was taken to divide the country and create a new Muslim homeland: Pakistan. It was a decision whose consequences reverberate to this day.
The film examines these events through the prism of a marriage (that of Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten) and a romance (that between a young Hindu servant, Jeet, and his intended Muslim bride, Aalia). The young lovers find themselves caught up in the seismic end of Empire, in conflict with the Mountbattens and with their own communities, but never ever giving up hope.
Viceroy’s House is a film that is both epic and intimate, with an inspirational message that celebrates tolerance. Many of the events depicted are either unknown or forgotten, but all have strong contemporary relevance in terms of lessons to be learnt concerning the politics of division and fear, the origins of religious extremism, and our moral responsibility towards migrants fleeing violence for a better life.
It is a story that is deeply personal to the film’s director Gurinder Chadha, whose own family was caught up in the tragic events that unfolded as the Raj came to an end.
Starring Gillian Anderson and Hugh Bonneville, Viceroy’s House is in cinemas from Thursday 18 May.
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