Viceroy’s House DVD Review

  • Actors: Gillian Anderson, Hugh Bonneville
  • Director: Gurinder Chadha
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: MPI Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: December 12, 2017
  • Run Time: 106 minutes

        Despite the title, Viceroy’s House is about the elimination of the position of Viceroy of India with the transition of British India to independence in 1947. A final Viceroy is tasked with the job of overseeing the transition, which inevitably divides the country even further due to certain political aspirations. Had this remained the focus of Viceroy’s House, it could have been a compelling historical drama, but the screenplay by Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha, and Moira Buffini splits the time between actual events and an imagined melodrama between star-crossed lovers torn apart by the politics. The result is uneven, often feeling as though more time would be necessary to care about this collection of characters. One critic remarked that this material might have been better suited for a mini-series, and I tend to agree.

        When Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) arrives in New Delhi to oversee the transition to independence with his wife Edwina (Gillian Anderson) and teenage daughter Pamela (Lily Travers), he is faced with a country divided by religion and cultural differences. Though the population is largely Hindu, a section of the country is also Muslim. Fearing that they will be treated as second-hand citizens once the British have left, the Muslim leaders advocate for the partition of India and the formation of Pakistan. Despite his efforts to keep India united, Lord Mountbatten soon discovers the political agenda behind the decision.

        Although we are given plenty of scenes with political leaders arguing about the direction of India, there are many gaps in the historical context of events. We are told that there are riots and people dying all over India when plans for partition are made clear, but the reason for this violence is never fully explained. It also feels somewhat shameful that despite these events having a deep impact on India, much of Viceroy’s House is focused on the white characters. The only element of the story countenancing this is a contrived romance between a Hindu man and a Muslim woman.

        Jeet (Manish Dayal) is a Hindu working in the staff quarters of the palace who is in love with a Muslim girl named Aalia (Huma Qureshi), who father he met while they were imprisoned together. Although Aalia also loves him, she has been promised to a Muslim soldier who has been fighting for the British. This love triangle is supposed to show the personal sacrifices made when India was divided, but it mostly comes off as contrived melodrama. Purposefully sentimental in the most unnatural way, this love story adds heart to the film but rarely meshes with the scenes of political struggle. Even the director’s own personal connections to these events in history don’t feel naturally introduced, so that the sentimentality of the narrative always feels manufactured the way a true story shouldn’t.

        The DVD includes a handful of deleted scenes and the film’s trailer.

Entertainment Value: 5.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10
Historical Significance:  4/10
Special Features: 2/10

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