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Viceroy’s House  : Let’s Re-Write History
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Friday, August 18, 2017
Gurinder Chadha
Gillian Anderson, Lady Edwina Mountbatten, Michael Gambon, General Lionel Hastings Ismay, Hugh Bonneville, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Manish Dayal

History is written by the victors, says writer-director Gurinder Chadha. But did the massacres of two communities and breaking united India into two countries leave any victors?


Chadha rewrites history by spotlighting Mountbatten, the last viceroy, as a good man who was kind of played around like a pawn to put his stamp on the Partition of India.As a rather stiff-necked Edwina tells her husband, “We came here to transfer power, not tear her apart.” Jinnah is called a troublemaker, Churchill is dismissed as a midwife. All this along with the politics of 1947, the Muslim League, the Indian National Congress, and the inter-personal rivalries that featured Jinnah, Nehru, Gandhi and a host of other leaders, could’ve made absorbing cinema. Chadha also recreates the British Raj rather neatly.


But, I said this after Begum Jaan, and I’ll say it again. Sir Radcliffe’s dilemma over surgically breaking up India was so well encapsulated by Ram Madhvani in his short film This Bloody Line, that a 106-minute version of it underperformsin comparison. Except that Chadha has a personal connect with the Partition which gives an extra depth to her film. 


However, there’s a cardboard feel toher characters and the trauma of the Partition abounds with scenes we’ve seen before. Including the rising Hindu-Muslim animosity. In fact Chadha sets a Hindu boy-Muslim girl romance against the politics and turmoil of the Partition butgives none of it theheart-wrenching impact that such a strong backdrop deserved.


Therefore, when Aalia heads for Pakistan leaving behind a heart-broken Jeet, it hardly moves the viewer.  Whether they meet again or not is of little interest when the Partition had too many heartaches and bloodshed for this love story to matter especially when it’s not grippingly told.


What’s interesting is the cast. Huma Qureshi makes a pretty Aalia and Manish Dayal is averagely efficient as Jeet. Hugh Bonneville is suitably British as Lord Mountbatten with a perpetual worry frown.


But at the end of it, you can’t shake off the feeling that Chadha’s trying to say quite a few things without saying any of it effectively.


For a film that seems like a lost opportunity, Viceroy’s House gets a 2.5* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Critic
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