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Viceroy’s House is a biopic of a country as much as a person. Although the primary narrative is to tell the story of the events that Lord Louis Mountbatten oversaw during his time as the last British Viceroy of India, but more than that it is a story of a nation. Set along side this is the story of two servants, one a Hindu, the other a Muslim who is working at the Viceroy’s house to help look after her father, who was blinded in an accident. These two characters, because of their different identities, become a metaphor for a country tearing itself apart. Much of the reasoning for this is clearly placed at the door of it’s rulers who; like any colonial power lost that power because it does not understand the country and the people that it is ruling. As the narrative develops different (political) actors with their own interests come into play, from Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi, who want to see India remain united, while Muhammad Jinnah is determined to see the establishment of a separate Muslim state in the form of Pakistan. As the politicians disagree among themselves, these disagreements spread throughout the household and the servants are seen falling out among themselves. There is an authenticity about way in which ordinary people overseeing these events are portrayed. This authenticity is emphasised with the use of real newsreel footage from the time interlaced throughout the film.

The central characters; or rather the central characters outside of Lord Mountbatten and his wife; namely Jeet Kumar, (played by Manish Dayal, who has been previously seen in the 100 Step Journey along with Om Puri who also appears in this film) Aalia Noor and her father Ali Rahim )played by Puri) represent the ordinary people in this film. Because the issue of a Hindu being attracted to a Muslim is addressed it is used as a metaphor for the bigger issue of the relationship between the fledgling states. There is a growing tension between these two characters, a result of Aalia’s long lost love returning from war. The metaphor is extended further by Aalia’s dilema, does she stay in India and choose Jeet Kumar; or does she go to Pakistan and choose Sanjit and her father. There is an authenticity about the way in which ordinary people overseeing these events are portrayed. Waves of refugees are seen going from one new country to another as India is divided in two. This authenticity is emphasised with the use of real newsreel footage from the time interlaced throughout the film.

Despite minor flaws Viceroy’s House is an enjoyable, informative film and a must for anyone who has an interest in either British or Indian history.

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