After charmingly delivering BHAJI ON THE BEACH, pleasantly cheering in BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, with a colourful dance of joy in BRIDE & PREJUDICE, Gurinder Chadha's ambition gets as grand as the Rolls Royce in this historical epic about the 1947 Partition of India.
The royal ambition based on the theory that – New nations are rarely born in peace – PARTITION: 1947 is a classily shot wooden study of Lord Louis and Lady Edwina Mountbatten – the last Viceroy and Vicereine appointed to oversee the British handover of India is the reason why the English title VICEROY'S HOUSE was more appropriate in this artificial crown that is further jeweled by a passionless romance and a sanitized (escape from reality) approach to history.
Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) is dispatched, along with his wife Edwina (Gillian Anderson), to New Delhi to oversee India's transition from British rule to Independence. Taking his place in the dazzling mansion known as the Viceroy's House, Mountbatten arrives hopeful for a peaceful transference of power. But ending centuries of colonial rule in a country divided by deep religious and cultural differences proves no easy undertaking, setting off a seismic struggle that threatens to tear India apart.
Amidst the turmoil a love story between two servants employed at the Viceroy's palatial estate Jeet (Manish Dayal), a Hindu and his Muslim childhood friend Aalia (Huma Qureshi) with whom he reunites after years but finds her to be already engaged to the chauffer of Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Denzil Smith) – Asif (Arunoday Singh) makes it a clumsy mix of prolonged, something you didn't expected from this proposed 'Great Expectations' from the makers.
Based on the books 'Freedom at Midnight'' by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre and ''The Shadow Of The Great Game – The Untold Story Of Partition'' by Narendra Singh Sarila, the screen writers that include the helmer Chadha along with Paul Mayeda Berges and Moira Buffini display a sense of feel good allusions that surprisingly seems to be more interested in painting a noble portrait of the Mountbatten's.
If you intended to have some insights into the alleged affair between Lady Edwina Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru (Tanveer Ghani), and the rumors of the Viceroy being homosexual then beware, the movie doesn't make any serious attempt to dig deep to extract different layers and seems to feel contented in just scratching the upper surface.
In a scene we see two servants of the Viceroy House watching a closed door meeting between India's top leaders and Mountbatten through a key hole of a door. In another scene Sir Cyril Radcliffe (Simon Callow) asks the servant who is serving him tea, ''Suna hai yeh garmi mein thanda karti hai? '' (I heard it makes you feel cooler in the summer heat), the Indian servant replies 'Thandi le kar aaoo'. Why you need to treat a 'desi' in such a manner?
Technically a superior product, production designer Laurence Dorman and costume designer Keith Madden do a marvelous job. Ben Smithard's camera work is eye pleasing. A.R. Rahman's music score sets the tone.
Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi are earnest though their characters are not given the required graph and establishment. Arunoday Singh as Asif is fine. Tanveer Ghani as Nehru, Neeraj Kabi as Gandhi and Denzil Smith as Jinnah leave their mark. Hugh Bonneville as Lord Mountbatten and Gillian Anderson as Lady Edwina are brilliant.
Last but not the least, the closing credits of the movie gives an emotional account of a woman who survived the devastating horror of 1947 Partition. Finally she reunited with her husband in a refugee camp. The woman was none other than director Gurinder Chadha's grandmother.
How we wish if the director had decided to tell that 'real' story coined with the partition devastation then it could have been a sure shot glory. Sadly, as Chadha has reduced the potential of the legendary Om Puri to bare minimum as just a blind father of Noor, the writer director has equally failed to give a proper cinematic justice to the inspiration behind this period saga.
Still in all generosity we go with 2.5 stars for this period drama even after this artificial /wooden attempt by Chadha coming at the time India is observing its 70th Independence.