Viceroy’s House: A true story about the creation of Pakistan and the difficult decisions behind it (Spoiler Alert!)

This newly released historical/drama film has a well acclaimed cast including Hugh Bonneville as Louis Mountbatten, Gillian Anderson as Edwina Mountbatten and  Michael Gambon as General Hastings Ismay.

The plot

Viceroy’s House centred around the last british ruling over India in 1947 –  1948.  It gave us the impression that Louis Mountbatten genuinely wanted the best for India and believed that he was doing would be for the best of the people. What I am referring to is the split of India, along the gulf coast, in order to create a new Islamic country, Pakistan.

They came into power to help smoothen the transition of ownership back to India, after India had been ruled under Queen Elizabeth for three centuries.

Lord and Edwina Mountbatton in a full staff photo.jpg
Lord Mountbatten (middle in grey suit) with Edwina Mountbatten (right) and their daughter (left). They are pictured with all the staff who worked in the house. 

The “Mountbatten Plan”

Lord Mountbatten (middle) with Kumar (left)

Lord Mountbatten was faced with a difficult task of convincing other leaders of the best solution and negotiating something that could help India rule on its own. He knew of the conflict and tension between the Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus, and as none of the leaders could agree, he understood the importance of a partition. While he felt it was better to have a united India, seconded by Gandhi who stated that “divisions do not create peace” and that “partitions unleash passion not peace”, a partition was the only way that he could get the leaders to agree.

The plan implemented by Lord Mountbatten was not a new idea and had been originally considered by Churchill in 1945 when he was in power. While this seemed good, the real reason for the split of India became a strategy for political gain and easy access to oil supplies in the Gulf Coast. The idea of splitting India was not in Churchill’s opinion to reduce conflict, it was to exploit resources and influence a smaller and less powerful country. Lord Mountbatten was shocked by the discovery and in contrast to Churchill, firmly believed that the split was for the best of the people.

Those who wanted to stay united as India were faced with the realisation that their home was changing and those who wanted change in the form of  a new country, Pakistan were excited to start a new life. Families were torn apart by the events – forced to choose Pakistan or India? Riots took place and even after this creation of a new country, there was still famine, suffering and death. Was this just the start?

Star-crossed lovers

Aalia, a young muslim girl, set to wed a young man after he got back from serving in the army, had hidden feelings for a young hindu named Kumar. With their religious beliefs, it was frowned upon for them to be together and when it was finally time to stay in India or move to Pakistan, he was heartbroken. She left with her husband to be, and her father, whom Kumar had cared for while he was in prison for marching with Gandhi.

He had lost the love of his life, and much like Romeo and Juliet, their relationship was not meant to be. He thought he had lost her for good after the night train she was on was bombed. He fell to the ground, crying and it was like a piece of his heart had been broken. Not only had he lost his family in the riots, but he had lost Aalia.

Aalia was a strong girl and was rescued from the train track. She was found by a women after she was pushed off by her father, saving her from the explosion. Her father and future husband died. She was taken to the camp in India where Kumar was helping out. She saw him but he did not see her – she was desperate and she grabbed a microphone and called his name. He was about to leave when he heard it and as soon as he did, he ran. He loved her and despite her leaving him for the train, he still wanted to be with her. Their embrace was golden – I cried and I am not afraid to admit it, because it was so beautiful after everything they had been through.

All good intentions

The Mountbatten family agreed to stay after Pakistan had become independant and help with food supplies and first aid. They tried their best to combat the effects of the partition and sent in humanitarian aid and water. They truly loved the country and tried to provide as much support as they could.

Despite their good work, people suffered – 14 million people were displaced in the largest mass migration they had ever seen. 1 million people died because of disease, famine and riots.

My Thoughts

This film was directed by the cousin of a women who was taken into camps when migrating to Pakistan , and then later reunited with her family, so it had a personal touch to the director and her loved ones.

The film depicted how much Lord Mountbatten and his family cared about India and the people. The themes of religious tension and rioting in the film brought to light how hard the decision was and that it was a double-ended sword, for whatever decision they made, there would be deaths.

I found the film moving and emotional, but really… we will never know if the film was showing a more forgiving side to the British, than they may have been at that time.  The additional story line and love plot was a nice feature and seemed to pad out the film, distracting us from the damage that Britain had caused from taking India over in the first place.  In my opinion, the film was good but seemed more like a cover-up.

Let me know what you think of the review and the film. I would love to hear what you all think.

Bye guys 🙂





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