Did you know your life was lacking an English-language Bollywood film? It was an absence and now that’s been fixed.
“Viceroy’s House” is terrific and moving entertainment. It has flaws, but its many touches of laughter, romance and moral ambiguity all enhance the experience.
That Bollywood feel slips a little, during the second half. But all of it zaps by, very quickly.
I didn’t want to see this. A friend said it was like “Downton Abbey” and – apart from the WW1 episodes – I find Doownton tedious and overly-obsessed with the “upstairs” part of “Upstairs, Downstairs”
Director Gurinder Chadha is best known for “Bend It Like Beckham”. She has a grandparent who had a child die during the partition of India. In all, fourteen million people were displaced and a million more died.
As the last Viceroy of India, Hugh Bonneville does a good job in the part of Mountbatten. Gillian Anderson is Lady Mountbatten and has one of the most cut crystal English voices possible.
Both look terrific in those costumes and they bring fine notes of self-doubt to this.
I’ve been told that accusations of anti-Muslim ideas were made against this film. I think it marks out the divisions between Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs without ascribing right or wrong to anyone.
Although the English rulers don’t emerge as perfect heroes, you get a sense of the terrible decisions made, when India won independence.
In the love story, the late Om Puri has far too little screen time, as the dad. I could have used about an hour more of him.
Huma Qureshi plays his daughter and she glows with energy. Manish Dayal is the young man who loves her but faces the barrier of being from another religion. I cared about what would happen to this young couple.
Denzil Smith was astonishing as Jinnah, the first leader of Pakistan.
Of the other performances – all of which are at least good – Simon Callow’s stood out.
Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse seemed to enjoy it and it leaves you thinking. I spent some time reading up on the history of India and Pakistan. If it brings more people to read about the actual events of 1947, that’s a good thing.
It’s a version of history for those who like costume drama and , yet, will be enjoyed by those of us who just remain fascinated by history.