Viceroy’s House in Delhi has for decades been the home of the British rulers of India. Yet now, after 300 years, that rule was coming to an end. For 6 months in 1947, Lord Mountbatten, great grandson of Queen Victoria, assumed the post of the last Viceroy, charged with handing India back to its people.
The film’s story unfolds within that great House. Upstairs lived Mountbatten together with his wife and daughter; downstairs lived their 500 Hindu, Muslim and Sikh servants. As the political elite—Nehru, Jinnah and Gandhi converged on the House to wrangle over the birth of independent India, conflict erupted. A decision was taken to divide the country and create a new Muslim homeland: Pakistan. It was a decision whose consequences are felt to this day.
The British cast is led by Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Paddington) as Lord Mountbatten; Gillian Anderson (The X Files, The Fall) as his wife, Lady Mountbatten; Lily Travers (Kingsman) as their daughter, Pamela; and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter, Quartet) and Simon Callow (A Room With A View, Four Weddings and a Funeral) as key civil servants.
The Indian and Pakistani cast is led by Manish Dayal (The Hundred Foot Journey), Huma Qureshi (Gangs of Wasseypur) and Om Puri (The Hundred Foot Journey, East Is East). The roles of the principal political leaders are played by Tanveer Ghani (Nehru), Denzil Smith (Jinnah) and Neeraj Kabi (Gandhi).
Viceroy’s House is a film that is both epic and intimate, with an inspirational message that celebrates tolerance. Many of the events depicted are either unknown or forgotten, but all have strong contemporary relevance in terms of lessons to be learnt concerning the politics of division and fear, the origins of religious extremism, and our moral responsibility towards migrants fleeing violence for a better life.
Viceroy’s House will receive its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival this weekend and will be on general release from March 3