Review / ‘Viceroy’s House’ (M) ****

HUSBAND-and-wife team Paul Mayeda Berges (writer) and Gurinda Chadha (director) have crafted a balanced telling of how Lord Louis “Dickie” Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville), his wife Edwina (Gillian Anderson) and daughter Pamela (Lily Travers) arrived in the vice-regal house with one overriding task – getting Britain out of its three-centuries-long rule over India.

It’s a big film, not only for its subject matter but also for its depiction of colonial mastery on the grandest scale that Britain ever imposed. In an interview with Britain’s “Telegraph” in February, Pamela Hicks says it contains a number of environmental inaccuracies, but they don’t intrude on the story’s real substance.

Which focuses on the political and diplomatic to-ing and fro-ing between Mountbatten Indian leader Nehru, Muslim leader Jinnah and the father of modern India Mahatma Gandhi. It’s fascinating stuff, condensed perhaps but nevertheless convincing.

Recalling a visit from Hugh Bonneville, Pamela says that he “didn’t look like my father, of course…He was chosen because of the success of ‘Downton Abbey’.”

Michael Gambon plays General “Pug” Ismay, whose revelation of a British Cabinet paper resolved the defining of the boundary between India and Pakistan at partition.

The Indian cast includes the great Om Puri as the blind grandfather of the film’s fictitious female love interest Aalia (Huma Qureshi), promised to one man but in love with another.

Watching that young pair called to mind the execution sequence in “Anna and The King” (1999), rather less terminally but a close run thing. Partition and the ensuing violence were, of course, not fictitious. The film uses archival newsreel footage of the latter.

At Palace Electric, Capitol 6 and Dendy


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