Posted Mar 05 2017

Viceroy's House - This Partition Movie Is Too Divided To Rock

Dir: Gurinder Chadha

Starring Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, Simon Callow, Simon Williams, Om Puri

Chadha’s historical drama based around the partitioning of India in 1947 is a mixed affair, one that falls somewhere between a Downtown-esque heritage movie, a sweeping romance and a tale of political intrigue. Moments in all three of these aspects work well at times, even if they never fully mesh together as a satisfying whole.

Bonneville is fine (if forever in the Earl of Grantham’s shadow) as Lord Mountbatten, sent by the British government to hand back India but finding himself caught up in a pre-planned decision to divide the country. Anderson (who must surely be on her way to the status of national treasure by now) is even better as Lady Mountbatten, a no-nonsense upper crust determined to be hands on as everything kicks off. The attention to detail in their side of the story is admirably realised – the opulent Viceroy’s house itself with its 500 servants, and where Lady M and her daughter tuck into the food provided for their dog, obviously much better than anything they’ve seen in ration book Britain in a long time.

Also, the unfolding of the political intrigue and what could be judged as betrayal is well handled, with Gambon playing deviously.

But it is into the Romeo and Juliet style subplot, played out between religiously divided young servants Dayal and Qureshi that the film comes unstuck. The actors themselves are fine, but their story feels under developed and tacked on, as if trying to provide the movie with a broader appeal than a strictly more historical and political approach would have done. It serves to render the whole piece somewhat uneven as well as underwhelming.

Still, nice to see Om Puri in one of his final roles, and to see Simon Williams back on the screen. And stay for the end titles, which reveal a lovely grace note for director Chandha herself.


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