We white people are so used to watching movies related to our own history that we forget how important it is to find out about other people’s past. The egocentricity of the West perhaps explains why, when I went to see it, there were so few people watching this amazing movie.
Viceroy’s House tells the story of what happened in 1947, namely, the Partition of the Indian subcontinent. After decades of protest against British rule, finally there was to be independence. But the price of independence was division along religious lines – majority Hindu India versus mainly Muslim Pakistan, itself subdivided between Pakistans East and West (after a further struggle, the latter subsequently became Bangladesh). Whether this was simply what the people wanted, or whether they were encouraged to want it in a devious continuation of colonial divide-and-rule, remains a moot point to this day. That Partition has scarred the lives of successive generations, however, is incontestable.
The film focuses on Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville), the last Viceroy of India who also became the first Governor General of independent India. In the movie, he is a hard-pressed individual doing his best to deal with conflicting pressures of historic proportions. For its romantic aspect, Viceroy’s House dwells on Mountbatten’s young manservant, Jeet (Manish Dayal), a Hindu boy, and his true love, Alia (Huma Qureshi), a Muslim girl. Their love for each other and their struggle to preserve this love, symbolises the possibility of people coming together against all odds.
The cinematography is exceptional: colours, camera pans and intelligent use of impressive locations make us fly to India to be part of historic events.
I was speechless in the end. I couldn’t even talk about it since my head was spinning with the terror those people went through – mass rape, torture, suicide and indiscriminate murder.
Viceroy’s House gave me deeper insight into India’s past and it made me even more respectful of people who are forced to leave their country of origin in search of a decent life.
There were deep resonances with today’s refugee crisis and divisions within Europe. Let’s hope that Brexit is not setting us up for another kind of Partition.