Film Reviews

In a world robbed of gods

Volume 14, Issue 1 | Published 03/07/2017  

Viceroy’s House (2017)
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Reviewer: Warris Vianni

The gods used to grace us with their presence. Making the treacherous descent to earth and risking taint by association with humans, the gods were well known in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. But it was in India, ancient Bharat, where the gods descended with the greatest abandon. Here, they dwelt amongst the humans, frolicking, making love and war, and leaving behind an astonishing store of legends celebrating their doings and recording our shortcomings. But the gods have deserted us of late. They did not appear even in Bharat's hour of need in 1947. Instead, the people of modern Bharat had to make do with a tall white man, his wife, daughter and their dog, who flew in from 4000 miles away in a 4-engined York transporter to help settle their matters. Though not known to be a deity, the white man’s high opinion of himself justified that he should dwell there in a great house, attended by a staff of 2000, there to grapple with the destinies of nations, and the reputation of his own.

British film director Gurinder Chadha - from a Kericho Punjabi family - has bravely produced a lush film narrative about the tumultuous last days leading to British withdrawal from India in the monsoon of 1947 and the partitioning of Bharat into India and Pakistan. The focus of the film is narrowed to the drama unfolding at the great house - Viceroy’s House in Delhi. Here Chadha combines the high politics of the drawing room, presided over by the last Viceroy and his Vicereine, Louis and Edwina Mountbatten, with the raw domestic politics amongst the staff downstairs who help run the House.