I imagine that none of the target audience attending the upcoming Seniors Film Festival (cutely titled ‘Young at Heart’ for its 12th program) would have been old enough to remember the events comprising Viceroy’s House.
The film, which will show twice over the festival’s six days, is Gurinder Chadha’s (Bend it Like Beckham) take on the final months of British rule in India. Set in 1947 and beginning with the arrival of Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville), his wife Lady Edwina (Gillian Anderson splendidly British) and their daughter Lady Pamela (Lily Travers), the narrative is primarily concerned with the messy political business of granting India its long-awaited independence amid the growing tensions between the Hindu, Sikh and Muslim populations.
Mountbatten hastens the process despite his liberal-minded wife’s pleas, in an attempt to quell the violence and looting occurring in outer provinces. He ultimately succumbs to pressure to partition the country into two newly constituted dominions.
The resulting refugee crisis and further carnage is mostly conveyed through newsreel footage or newspaper headlines but its true enormity is never fully realised because set against these real-life events is the illustrative love affair between Jeet (Manish Dayal) and Aalia (Huma Qureshi), servants to the Mountbattens of opposing religions. Their’s is an underdeveloped and distracting bit of fluff that suffers from some rather ordinary dialogue.
Despite that, and the potentially troublesome issue of representing such politically heated and violent history of this sort in a semi-fictionalised fashion, Viceroy’s House is an easily watchable film that, at the very least, alludes to an interesting story not often told.
Do peruse the festival program for the alternatives that range from the contemporary to retrospective including the wonderful The Third Man. And of course, you don’t need to be senior to attend, although if you are you get very nicely priced tickets!
Viceroy’s House is showing Tuesday, April 11 and Saturday, April 15 as part of Young at Heart Seniors Film Festival at Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas