If you know anything about Britain, you know that it possessed many colonies across the globe and loads of them strove in one way or another for their independence. India is the perfect example of this. A huge country which had been under Britain for years. After World War II they began the transition towards self rule. This was a huge change which shifted much in the world. A result of which was the creation of the country of Pakistan.
With a story like this you get poltics, culture, history, and human behaviour. The title of the film is a hint of what type it is. Viceroy’s House is not just about the big names, rather it is about everyone who lives and resides in the Viceroy’s palace. From the staff to those making the decisions.
Spring 1947 the final British Viceroy to India takes up residence. Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville – Notting Hill, Paddington) is tasked with overseeing British India to independece. Soon after arrival he realizes that this is going to be far from easy. It is actually a monumental task. The cultural and religious differences between the different populations in India put roadblock after roadblock in the way. Such a struggle happens that it might succeed only in tearing India apart.
Within the residence a love story is playing out between Aalia (Huma Qureshi – Badlapur, D-Day), a young Muslim woman, and Jeet (Manish Dayal – The Hundred-Foot Journey, The Domino Effect), a young Hindu man. With all its inherent complexities. These intricacies and love story goes a long way towards showing the split between the Indian people based on religion or caste.
The Brits do period pieces so well. They have ably combined the idea of being entertaining while educating at the same time. Tend towards balanced depictions of what happened. Britain’s imperial past is held up to be examined. Britain no longer had the power or resources to hold on to countries like India anymore. Everyone knew that, but the division still is not an easy thing.
The cast is a strength with special mention going out to Gillian Anderson. Here, she demonstrates that rather than being the star actress category she has been jammed into, Anderson is an accomplished character actress. Her accent is perfect. Portrays the moral core of the Brits wonderfully. Her range seems endless and is up to the task of taking on any number or type of characters.
Visually the film, directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham), is stunning. Everything has a rather lavish and plush look to it. The buildings, costumes, sets, and wigs are top notch. It also wonderfully depicts the pace of life in and vibrant nature of India.