Viceroy’s house is a historical drama about Lord Louis Mountbatten’s attempt to oversee the transition of India under a British rule to independent country. Mountbatten (Downton abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville) arrived in 1947 with his wife, Lady Edwina Mountbatten (Gillian Anderson from The X-files) and their teenage daughter Pamela, to be India’s last Viceroy and to assure that the transition would go smoothly. But it is more complex than he had envision. Within India there was several nationalities, religions and political opinions. That was also true of the 500 servants working in the Viceroy’s house. And tensions mount, in and outside the house. Mountbatten’s valet, Jeet (Manish Dayal), is an Hindu. He is in love with secretary Aalia (Huma Qureshi) who is a Muslim. That is not a problem, except that a marriage to another man has been arranged by her father, Ali (the late Om Puri). There is many historical figures, both British and Indian, including Mahatma Gandhi (Neeraj Kabi) and General Hastings Ismay (Michael Gambon), who has an 11th hour surprise for Lord Mountbatten. I don’t know if Viceroy’s house is historically factual. I will leave that to the historians. This is as lavish a production as you could find. Mentions should be made of the incredible work of casting directors Michelle Guish and Seher Latif, who populated the screen with a great variety of interesting faces and good actors. Gillian Anderson is particularly good as the compassionate and dutiful Lady Mountbatten. The only is problem is the fictionalized love story between the two servants. Some of it is OK, but the over-the-top syrupy ending goes too far. What passes for good drama these days, is actually laughable. But the A. R. Rahman string score is subtle and sparse, as it should be.
Plays at Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema from October 26 – 28
Paul Mayeda Berges