Monday, December 06, 2021

Viceroy’s House Premiere: Gurinder Chadha film trains lens on ‘shadow of partition’

The film is being released in the time of Donald Trump, of rising factionalism and of the rampant right around the world.

Written by Shubhra Gupta |
February 13, 2017 1:26:13 am
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“I grew up in the shadow of Partition,” says Gurinder Chadha. Her new film Viceroy’s House dealing with the weeks leading up to the Partition has been made, she says, by a British Punjabi, whose story-telling sensibilities are British but her ancestral home lies in pre-Partition Punjab. The closing credits mention that Chadha’s grandmother fled during the tumultuous weeks, and that her ‘granddaughter’ has made the film. Understandably then, there is a track which deals with the big historical moments, moments which have been long part of history books. And the other track is of small personal moments, told through a series of fictional or semi-fictional characters.

The film is being released in the time of Trump, of rising factionalism and of the rampant right around the world. Chadha and her script writer husband Paul Mayeda Berges are aware that this film may be set in 1947, but it is even more relevant today. The “more you try and divide people, the more you are driven to violence,” says the director, who shot to fame with that lovely Brit-Punj comedy of manners Bhaji On The Beach and built on that with Bend It Like Beckham.

Her twin influences are visible in Viceroy’s House which comes alive in small sparkling moments. Huma Qureshi , who plays a young Muslim woman in love with a Hindu man, is articulate too: their love story is the beating heart of the film, and leaves us with a splash of optimism . And what better place than the Berlinale for its world premier. Because this is a city which has lived with partition and division, and is still trying to come to terms with being one.

The cab driver who fetched me from the airport said, when asked, that he was from West Berlin. He still mentions that, he says, as he lived during the time when the wall divided the city. His life would have been different if he had lived in the communist east.  And here is East Berlin, he says with a flourish as he draws up to Potsfsmer Platz, the main venue of the Berlinale, all lit up and welcoming the delegates from around the world. And smiles and winks, and is off.

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