Set at the time of Indian independence and the Partition, Viceroy’s House arrives in UK cinemas this Friday. Director Gurinder Chadha took time off from promoting the film to talk to Flickering Myth’s Freda Cooper about why the film was such a personal project, and to share memories of the late Om Puri.
Fifteen years on from her breakthrough as a director, Bend It Like Beckham, Gurinder Chadha is drawing on family history for Viceroy’s House, set during the late 1940s when the Indian continent went through substantial change. India itself achieved independence and the separate state of Pakistan was also founded.
Brought up with her grandmother’s stories of those days, the idea of making a film on the subject only took hold when Chadha appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? “My ancestral homeland was in the foothills of the Himalayas, the part of Punjab which became Pakistan in 1947, and all my family upped and left as refugees,” she recalls. Visiting there for the first time for the documentary, and struck by the warmth of the welcome she received, she decided to make a film that would show not only the political side of the events but also how they affected ordinary people.
It also turned out to be one of the last on-screen appearances of veteran Indian actor, Om Puri, who was thrilled to be in a film that told the story from a British Asian perspective, 35 years after appearing in Richard Attenborough’s Ghandi. On set, he was “like a kid in a sweet shop.”
You can watch the full interview on the player below.
Viceroy’s House is released in UK cinemas on Friday, 3rd March. Read our review here.