Gurinder Chadha says her film Viceroy House seeks to 'celebrate the freedom struggle'
The number of people who died in the violence following India’s independence struggle is still disputed, but most historians believe it was a million civilians or more. What is not in doubt is that they died in the most horrifying circumstances.
Arson, torture, mass rape, desecration of temples and indiscriminate murder was commonplace. This is the backdrop of Gurinder Chadha's next film, Viceroy House.
"The film is a timely reminder of what happens when politicians and leaders start using divide and rule," Gurinder Chadha told Reuters in an interview. "Eventually, it leads to violence and it leads to death, and that doesn't serve anyone."
The film focuses on the final pre-independence days in office of Lord Mountbatten, played by Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville.
Bonneville's co-star as Lady Mountbatten is The X-Files actress Gillian Anderson. The main protagonists among their staff are played by award-winning Indian actress Huma Qureshi and U.S. actor Manish Dayal. The film also stars veteran Indian actor Om Puri, who died in January.
However, Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto launched a scathing attack on the film in The Guardian, calling it 'a deeply colonised imagination' and a 'servile pantomime of partition'.
Speaking to Scroll.in, Chadha addressed Bhutto's scathing attack. "My film has been misinterpreted by some. But I don’t mind criticism."
Chadha wrote a counter-piece to Bhutto's in The Gaurdian that said, "My film does not ignore the freedom struggle – it celebrates that struggle. It does not ignore the colonial policy of divide and rule, but challenges it. Above all, it does not show the Muslim community as sole perpetrators of violence."