India has such a rich culture which I can’t help but be fascinated by when it’s the setting for a film. In recent years we’ve been treated to many films with this setting or characters from it. They’re often really lighthearted, feel good films, showcasing both factual and fictional stories. However, ‘Viceroy’s House’ seemed to be a more serious film. Charting the partition of India this film has a strong focus on politics, in one of the most defining historical periods in Indian history.
Hugh Bonneville plays Lord Mountbatten, the final Viceroy of India, tasked with the job of handing independence back to India after almost three centuries of British rule. He plays the character with confidence, showcasing a charisma that is noted wasn’t present with the past Viceroys. His onscreen wife and Vicereine of India, Edwina Mountbatten, is played by the wonderful Gillian Anderson. She gives the standout performance for me portraying the compassion of this real life figure so convincingly. There is a large supporting cast surrounding the main performers, both British and Indian. Michael Gambon, Simon Callow, Om Puri & Manish Dayal are only some of the names who make up the rest of the cast. The entire ensemble work effectively together, though Gambon & Dayal’s performances create particular highlights amongst the supporting cast. Before any of these characters even grace the screen with their presence though the film takes us on a short tour of the titular Viceroy’s House as the opening credits role. Although I was almost immediately struck with a sense of dullness, I felt that the colour grading was missing so much potential. With the recent string of Indian movies to be released I’ve become accustomed to the brightness and fullness used when it comes to the colour and culture of this great country. Here though the film looks rather bland and barren. At first I thought this to be a flaw but as the narrative unfolded I began to understand this decision.
As I’ve already mentioned this is a political drama, therefore it’s reasonable to expect a fair amount of this in the narrative. Politics isn’t a subject I have a great fondness for and I can find it hard to engage with films which have it at their core. So it was no surprise that I found some of the political drama to be less than entertaining with some elements going completely over my head. Thankfully there are other storylines happening as well with much more human drama at the focus. I found the film to be at its strongest when it showcased the lives of those directly effected by the division of their country. When this more human element combined with the politics the film became much more engaging as a whole. I was rather impressed with the bold story telling here which highlights many harsh truths about Britain and its impact on India. It’s the second film in only a few months to paint Prime Minister Churchill in a less than favourable light. However, It is a shame that the conclusion to some of the character narrative undermines the harsh realities that are brought to the forefront through this film.
Nonetheless, ‘Viceroy’s House’ is at times a very powerful piece of film-making. The cast do a tremendous job of portraying the wide range of characters featured here representing as many parties as possible. Whilst the politics aren’t always engaging when they work with the more human elements of the story the film becomes an engrossing watch. With director, Gurinder Chadha’s, personal connection to this story she has brought to light a shocking & brutal insight into the history of two nations. If only she hadn’t felt the need for certain conclusions more impact could have been created.
Rating – 7.5/10
Question: What is your favourite political drama film?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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