Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Weekly Rec: Viceroy's House

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When I first heard about Viceroy's House - a movie about Lord Mountbatten and the Partition of India, starring Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson as the Mountbattens, I was interested (that cast!) but also a bit worried, as this seemed an opportunity for a huge amount of romanticizing colonialism and generally keeping the British experience central. But! Never fear. The movie is actually directed and co-written by Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), and parts of it are based on her own family's experiences during the Partition. This is, as we say, #ownvoices.

Which is not to say that this movie - or anything - is perfect and unproblematic, of course. But Viceroy's House does a really great job of presenting the story from multiple points of view at the same time, as the months leading up to Indian Independence are followed at, uh, the Viceroy's House, with both the Viceroy (and other Brits) and his staff and their families - who are themselves not a monolith and have conflicting views on what should happen to their country. I knew the outlines of this period of history (I want to say "of course," but many of my fellow audience members had NO IDEA India was partitioned), but this movie definitely made me want to learn more about the intricacies of the politics both leading up to and after independence.

The movie does perhaps go a little easy on the Mountbattens, who are portrayed as well-meaning but in over their heads, manipulated by higher-ups in the British government. But it focuses just as much on both the tragedy and promise this episode of history brought to the Indian people, seen through the stories of a young mixed-faith couple (played beautifully by Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi) and their families. It's both educational and a piece of thoroughly enjoyable entertainment, with solid writing and acting as well as beautiful sets and locations and period costumes.

Viceroy's House is currently playing in a limited number of theaters - if it's near you, it's definitely worth the watch.

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