Viceroy’s House (2017)

Viceroy’s House
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Writer: Paul Mayeda BergesMoira Buffini, Gurinder Chadha
Cast: Hugh BonnevilleGillian AndersonManish DayalHuma QureshiMichael GambonOm PuriDavid HaymanSimon CallowDenzil SmithNeeraj KabiTanveer GhaniLily Travers
Seen on: 30.8.2017

Lord Louis Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife Edwina (Gillian Anderson) arrive in India as Mountbatten is tasked with overseeing the transition from India to independence from British colonialism. It’s a job where Mountbatten has a very slim chance to come out on top, as religious and political tensions in India are high. A fact that is also very apparent to Jeet (Manish Dayal), a Hindu who just started working at the Viceroy’s palace. There he finds Aalia (Huma Qureshi) again, a young Muslim woman who he used to be in love with. And while Aalia seems to like Jeet as well, things really aren’t easy.

There were a couple of things I struggled with during the film, but it was an engaging film, albeit one that doesn’t quite manage to be the film it could have been.

Since history really isn’t my strong suit, I don’t know how accurate the portrayal of events was in the film, but for me it did give a nice introduction into the subject and the particular way white people fucked things over yet again in this particular context (even though some of them are well-meaning at least).

It was a politically highly dramatic situation, and it’s made even more dramatic here with the love story between Jeet and Aalia. I’m torn about that: I thought it was absolutely essential that we get a look at the Indian perspective of things and that the film doesn’t just show us the Brits in their palace and how they try to handle the situation. And yet, that story didn’t work for me. It was too clichéd, too been there seen that. It went so far that I was really annoyed with that particular plotline, wishing that it hadn’t been included at all – despite the charming Dayal and the Romeo and Juliet angle.

That annoyance meant that the film just never completely convinced me, even though it has many strengths. The Mountbatten part of the film drew me in, Bonneville and, even more so, Anderson give fantastic performances and the cinematography was nice.

I can only hypothesize that I would have loved the film if Jeet and Aalia’s story had worked for me to provide the emotional impact of the political decisions Mountbatten and his people make in the safety of their palaces. And I really think I would have. But since it didn’t work, the film never gets passed being okay and likeable.

Summarizing: Could have been better.

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