Gurinder Chadha wants US president Donald Trump to watch her new film on the Partition of India to learn about the tragic events and their resonance in today’s world.
“We are living in a world that is quite divisive, we have politicians talking about building walls and labelling huge groups of people. The film in a way is a timely reminder of what happens when you start to create divisions,” Chadha said, referring to Trump’s plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
“I would love Donald Trump to watch the film and maybe learn from the events of 1947 and how resonant they are today,” she said.
Viceroy’s House, is set in the last days of the British Raj in 1947 as British India was divided into India and Pakistan, leading to widespread sectarian violence in what has been described as the largest mass migration in human history.
The film has been in making for seven years for the Bend It Like Beckham director and is a passion project dedicated to her grandparents, who survived the Partition riots. It premiered at the Berlin Film Festival on Sunday (12).
“Partition sits very heavily for a lot of us. For me, it has been cathartic to be able to go back to this story and trace the geo-political events that led to Partition. And, to also say that it is time to move on,” she said.
Chadha worked on the film’s screenplay with her writer-husband Paul Mayeda-Berges and read more than 20 books as part of an extensive research to formulate her narrative.
She is categorical about not letting any of the political leaders “off the hook” and believes Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten all had their part to play.
“It is very important to say that this film is made from a distinctly British Punjabi perspective. India and Pakistan have their own narratives on this chapter in history. But this is very much my viewpoint based on all the research,” said the 57-year-old London-based filmmaker.
She also wanted to keep the focus on ordinary people and the staff at Viceroy’s House, which was to become Rashtrapati Bhavan, and how they were affected by the decisions made by the political leadership behind closed doors.
The cast is led by British actor Hugh Bonneville as Lord Mountbatten and Gillian Anderson as his wife, Lady Edwina Mountbatten.
The Indian and Pakistani cast is led by actors Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi and Om Puri, who passed away last month before he could see the final cut.
“I am really sad I didn’t get to sit with him and watch it. Om was extremely delighted when he got the script. He used to tell me every day on set in Punjabi that I was doing a very good thing by making this film. He was very proud to be part of a British film with such a Punjabi heart,” Chadha said.
Viceroy’s House will open across UK cinemas on March 3 and get its India release in August to coincide with the 70th anniversary celebrations of India’s independence.