Tag: Director Gurinder Chadha

SAT EXCLUSIVE – Viceroy’s House is my interpretation of India’s partition in 1947: Gurinder Chadha

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SAT Editor Neeraj Nanda interviewing Gurinder Chadha.

By Neeraj Nanda

British Historian E. H. Carr wrote: “History means interpretation.” The 300-years of colonial history and the British rule in India has been a much written and debated subject. Director Gurinder Chadha delves into this rather contentious subject with her movie ‘Viceroy’s House’ dealing with the final months of the Empire leading to the birth of two nations- India and Pakistan. For six months in 1947, Lord Mountbatten, British India’s last Viceroy, is charged with handing India back to its people. The happenings in Viceroy’s house both political (politicians wrangling over issues) and social (within the staff) go on as the country is hit by unprecedented violence and mass migration. A love story with the young lovers caught up in the vortex of the partition drama runs parallel to these developments. The story is personal to Gurinder Chadha, whose own family was engulfed in the tragic events as the British Raj came to an end.

Gurinder Chadha, was in Melbourne to promote the movie (releasing here on 18 May 2017) and I caught up with her at the 3AW building.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: How challenging was the ‘partition’ subject as you researched the script?

A: Very challenging. Because it is also personal and a sad subject. Sad for Punjabis and Bengalis as these states were divided. But the story needed to be told. This is the shadow of it. Lots of old people who were there then. I wanted to do it before the generation is lost. So that they could feel their stories are told.

Q: Any hurdles in the scripting?

A: Yes, the biggest problem was how to show the violence. I did not want to stir up communal feelings. This was a big issue for me. I saw the archives to show the right things.

Q: How much time the scripting took?

A: It took five years.

Q: This August it will be 70 years since partition. But the issues are still the same. Religious intolerance continues.

A: Well, I feel this is what the politicians do and that is what the film shows. It’s easy to divide and rule us. It is an effective way of controlling problems between people. Focus shifts and there is a distraction from the real business of the government. Whenever anyone uses hate you can be sure they are using it to detract from real issues.

Q: The relationship between a Hindu and a Muslim runs parallel with the partition drama. What are you trying to convey?

A: I wanted the film as history as well as entertaining for the audience. I wanted to set a love story that allows you to tell those stories of the division with the emotional sets where the lovers are deciding what to do.

Q: The film mentions about those top secret documents about partition. Are you saying the British had already decided to split India?

A: Yes. But I don’t want to elaborate the documents. I encourage the people to see the movie. What I have done is to base the movie on secret British documents that go back to 1945 telling a different story what officially happened as compared to the stories normally we have been told. And it is interesting and important because it tells the partition from a British-Indian perspective. Therefore, every Indian is interested in the history and story of partition. People should go to see the movie to see what is uncovered in the end.

Q: You admit your own family’s partition experience inspired the film. There was so much tragedy and pain. How could you overcome this and give a positive message in the film?

A: It’s very hard. I didn’t watch the movie. I get upset. I came towards the end of the movie and watched it. One just has to be strong and we have to move on. Three wars have been fought between India and Pakistan. This is rooted in the partition. This movie has generated debate and people talking about it.

Q: So, the two-nation theory that Hindus and Muslims are different nations is no good.

A: There are more Muslims in India than Pakistan.

Q: A million died in the riots and millions were uprooted and became refugees. What is the message for today’s world where again millions have been crossing borders?

A: I agree. People are moved and touched by this movie because it highlights the events that happened 70 years back and is not different from what is happening today. Hope there is an impact and the refugee experience is humanized.

Q: Would you make a movie on this subject?

A: Maybe, depends on the script.

Q: Fatima Bhutto in her review says your movie is a colonial version and misrepresents historical reality. What do you say?

A: I replied to her in the Guardian. She misrepresented the film. She is a politician and sees the film as anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan. But lots of Pakistani people said she feels different from what we see. She is from an elite Pakistani family who never lost their lands etc. and nothing of theirs was touched during the partition. She has everything and never experienced what others did. A Muslim girl wrote in the Huntington Post that by attacking the film all British Asians have been attacked. It’s good the movie has created a debate. Fatima herself felt bad as a lot of people called her review bad journalism. The film she describes is not the film that most people feel it is.

This is a British-Indian film. A Pakistani would have made a different film. An Indian from India would have made a different film. A White person would have made a different film. Anyone can make a film with their own interpretation.

This movie is my interpretation as a British-Indian woman. My version of what happened. I am what I am. Indians will say differently and Pakistanis will say it differently.

Q: So, we can say this is Gurinder Chadha’s interpretation of partition?

A: Yes, it is. Of course, this is my film.

Q: The Indian Censor Board is quite strict these days and liberal in demanding cuts?

A: They have passed the movie with no cuts.

Q: Would you agree while we blame the British and the politicians for the tragedy, our own roles also need to be examined. Are we also responsible?

A: You have to answer that. I made my film. It’s for others to look at their own situation. I made it with historical facts as I see them.

Q: Tell me about your upcoming TV serial on British India?

A: I have a TV company that makes programs. We plan to make a serial on British Raj starting 1800 and build up the story of India’s first war of independence in 1857.

Gurinder Chadha to promote ‘Viceroy’s House’ in Australia

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By SAT News Desk

Melbourne, 6 April: The 1947 partition set forth in the Indian Independence Act 1947 resulted in the dissolution of the British Raj and gave birth to India and Pakistan at midnight on 14-15 August 1947. Millions were displaced and killed in communal riots. The grim consequences of partition reverberate to this day. The final months of the British Raj were tense and tough. It is the events in these months that Director Gurinder Chadha captures in her new movie ‘Viceroy’s House’.

Director Gurinder Chadha, will be here this month end to promote ‘Viceroy’s House’ scheduled to release in Australia on May 18. Gurinder Chadha, will present her new movie to audiences at a series of Q&A screenings in Sydney and Melbourne.

‘Viceroy’s House’, stars Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Gillian Anderson (The Pak), Michael Gambon (Emma, The Ha, Potter films), Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi. The movie in English has music is by A.R. Rahman and runs for 106 minutes.

The movie tells the true story of the final months of British rule in India. Viceroy’s House in Delhi was the home of India’s British rulers. After 300 years, that rule was coming to an end. For 6 months in 1947, Lord Mountbatten, great-grandson of Queen Victoria, assumed the post of the last Viceroy, charged with handing India back to its people.

The film’s story unfolds within that great House. Upstairs lived Mountbatten together with his wife and daughter, downstairs lived their 500 Hindu, Muslim and Sikh servants. As the political elite – Nehru, Jinnah and Gandhi – converged on the House to wrangle over the birth of independent India, conflict erupted. A decision was taken to divide the country and create a new Muslim homeland: Pakistan. It was a decision whose consequences reverberate to this day.

It is a story that is deeply personal to Gurinder Chadha, whose own family was caught up in the tragic events that unfolded as the Raj came to an end.

Gurinder Chadha’s is best known for the hit films Bhaji on the Beach (1993), Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Bride and Prejudice (2004), Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008), and the comedy film It’s a Wonderful Afterlife (2010).