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Gurinder Chadha’s New Gillian Anderson-Starring Viceroy’s House Challenges Notions of the British Empire in India

Representations of the British Empire are a challenging thing that I’m often skeptical about, considering the amount of romanticization and obscuring these narratives traditionally employ. For Victoria & Abdul, for instance, I was both curious and concerned with the way the trailer seemed to approach dangerous tropes and gloss over colonial violence.

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In a refreshing departure, filmmaker Gurinder Chadha’s new movie Viceroy’s House looks like a thoughtful and sensitive portrayal of the last days of the British Empire in India.

Based on the true story of the final Viceroy of India, Lord Mountabatten, the film will dive into the final months he and his family spent in his country as he was “tasked with overseeing the transition of British India to independence, but was met with conflict as the sides clash in the face of monumental change.” Hugh Bonneville will play Lord Mountbatten, and Gillian Anderson his wife, Lady Edwina Mountbatten.

Set in 1947 during the Partition of India, Chadha’s film will be told from the perspectives of “both the Mountabatten family and the people of India.” The love story between a manservant, Jeet and the daughter’s assistant, Alia is one of these perspectives. The trailer states that this is “one of a million personal stories” and while it’s not fair to demand perfect representation in one film, it’s clear that Chadha is dedication to embracing the many conflicts, political, personal, religious, and more going on in this time.

The director, who was born in the Indian diaspora in East Africa, has explored themes of Indian and British identity in works like Bend It Like Beckham or Bhaji on the Beach. Chadha’s film will likely be a powerful film for education, as she plans to challenge what is typically taught and said about the British presence in India.

She told Indiewire, “Viceroy’s House is a very personal film for me that challenges the version of history of the end of the British Empire in India…My film is based on top secret British documents that looks at what Britain and America had to gain from the Partition of India and the creation of Pakistan.”

Within this historical piece, there’s an unexpected resonance to the conflicts and aftermaths. Chadha shares, “My grandmother and her children became part of the 14 million who became refugees overnight. Although Partition happened 70 years ago this month I never figured just how relevant the film would be to today’s world of Brexit, the building of walls and the politics of division.”

What do you think of the trailer for Viceroy’s House?

(via Indiewire, image: screencap)

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