“Viceroy’s House” sends timely ‘divide and rule’ message, says director Chadha

LONDON,  (Reuters) – A new film exploring the partition of India will offer audiences a poignant reminder, 70 years on, that using politics to divide communities is nothing new, its British director says.

Gurinder Chadha, whose grandparents lived through the violence that followed the birth of Pakistan in 1947, said it was important for her to mark the milestone with a film like “Viceroy’s House”.

“The film is a timely reminder of what happens when politicians and leaders start using divide and rule,” she told Reuters in an interview. “Eventually, it leads to violence and it leads to death, and that doesn’t serve anyone.”

The film, which opens in UK cinemas tomorrow, focuses on the final pre-independence days in office of Lord Mountbatten, played by “Downton Abbey” star Hugh Bonneville.

It traces the turmoil that ensues as British and Indian leaders grapple with the issue of independence and looks at its effect on the Indian staff – both Hindu and Muslim – at the residence of the film’s title.

More than 1 million people died in the political earthquake set off when India and Pakistan became two countries and gained independence from Britain. The neighbours have since fought three wars and relations between them remain tense.

For Chadha, whose other credits include “Bend it Like Beckham” and “Bhaji on the Beach”, the film offered the opportunity to redress what she views as the standard narrative blaming the violence on disputatious Indians rather than Britain’s divisive imperial policies.

“I wanted to challenge the historical narrative of partition and independence, the last days of The Raj. I wanted to challenge the way I had been taught it at school, based on the evidence that I had come across in my research,” she said.

Bonneville’s co-star as Lady Mountbatten is “X-Files” actress Gillian Anderson.

The main protagonists among their staff are played by award-winning Indian actress Huma Qureshi and U.S. actor Manish Dayal. The film also provides a valedictory role for veteran Indian actor Om Puri, who died in January. For Qureshi, like Chadha, making the film was as much a personal as a professional journey.

“My grandfather’s sister was married in Pakistan and they lost touch for many, many years,” said Qureshi. “A few years ago, a man just popped up at my dad’s restaurant and he said, I think I’m your cousin… And they exchanged names and family trees, and he was. And of course, it was so overwhelming and so emotional.”



About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning:

Most Read This Week

  1. Boy critical, siblings hurt in crash

  2. No renegotiating illegal parking meter contract

  3. Man charged with stealing $700,000 from Republic Bank customer’s account

  4. PPP/C MP lodges complaint against three doctors over alleged abuse of medication by Carol Joseph

  5. Raid against Kaieteur mining nabs 21

  6. Jagdeo concerned over president’s delay in selecting Gecom chairperson

  7. Allegation that 200 persons blacklisted by SOCU is a fabrication – police

  8. Nandlall raises grave concern about purported airport blacklist

  9. Nine overseas-based Guyanese give their take on opportunities here

Recommended For You