Fatima Bhutto in The Guardian:
Gurinder Chadha’s Raj film Viceroy’s House begins with an ominous warning: “History is written by the victors.” It sure is. The empire and its descendants have their fingerprints all over this story. Viceroy’s House, the story of the Mountbattens’ arrival in India and the subcontinent’s subsequent breakup, opens to the sight of bowing, preening and scraping Indians at work on the lawns, carpets and marble floors that are to greet the last viceroy of colonised India, Lord Louis Mountbatten – or Dickie, as he was known – played by the rosy Hugh Bonneville. In one of his first scenes, Mountbatten instructs his Indian valets that he never wants to spend more than two minutes getting dressed – fitting for the man who dismembered India in less than six weeks. As always, it is the Indians, not the British, who fail in the simplest of tasks set out for them (they take 13 minutes). The benevolence of the Mountbattens and, by association, the British Raj is laced throughout Chadha’s film. The second world war, we are told at the start by another pair of Indian valets, has exhausted the British and that is why they have “announced” they will be leaving India. There is no mention of the freedom struggle, Gandhian civil disobedience and resistance that brought the empire to its knees without firing a shot. Nor of the persecution and imprisonment of India’s independence leaders, successful economic boycotts of the industrialised British behemoth or the savagery and theft of imperialism (at least three million Indians died in the Bengal famine, a man-made disaster). It is simply that the British were “exhausted” – and that, too, by the Germans.
…Viceroy’s House is the film of a deeply colonised imagination. Its actors are collateral damage; no ill can be spoken of their talent or their craft. But as a south Asian I watched this film in a dark cinema hall and wept. This August will mark the 70th anniversary of the largest migration in human history. Fifteen million Indians were displaced and more than a million killed as the subcontinent was torn asunder. What value was freedom if it did not empower people to think without chains? If this servile pantomime of partition is the only story that can be told of our past, then it is a sorry testament to how intensely empire continues to run in the minds of some today.