Prior to the screening of Viceroy’s House, in London, before the film’s premiere at the Berlin film festival, director Gurinder Chadha introduced her latest endeavour, and she struggled to find the words, even pausing momentarily when overcome with emotion. As the film progresses it become clear why this was the case, as the talented filmmaker presents a distinctly personal tale, as one that delves into the series of events that went on to define who she is, and her identity.

Set in 1947, Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife Edwina (Gillian Anderson) relocate to India, as the former becomes the nation’s very final Viceroy, tasked with ensuring a steady, comfortable progression to independence, away from the British ruling that has been in place for centuries. Any such transition is far from smooth however, as the country is heading dangerously close to a civil war, with an ongoing conflict taking place between the Muslim and Hindu communities, epitomised in the romance between two of the Lord’s servants Jeet (Manish Dayal), a Hindu, and the Muslim Aaalia (Huma Qureshi), who struggle to envisage a way to be together amidst the animosity. Such a huge endeavour is one left with Mountbatten, tasked with deciding whether or not he’ll grant the Muslims with a proposed nation of their own; Pakistan.

Though a complex narrative, covering a whole myriad of themes, it’s made easily accessible thanks to the fact we peer into this world through the eyes of the Mountbattens – new to this culture and way of life, asking the questions we ourselves want the answers to, helping us to comprehend the forthcoming partition. The one plot device that does feel somewhat superfluous in its inclusion, however, is the romantic narrative that feels shoehorned in, and while appreciating the need to highlight the divide between the nation, working as an archetypal Romeo & Juliet device, with the convoluted nature of this story it becomes overwhelming, with just another thing to try and invest in.

Viceroy's HouseThe leading performances are commendable, particularly that of Anderson, who plays the role of Edwina with a quiet fury of sorts, empathetic and yet tinged with guilt, as she lives in a mansion where Indian workers strive tirelessly to ensure her stay is a pleasant one. But regrettably some of the supporting performances are not quite up to scratch. Naturally that can’t be said of Om Puri, as the actor, who recently passed away, shows off that distinctive charisma he carried throughout his illustrious career.

But this film, though flawed, remains an important one to indulge in, as a timely release that scrutinises over humanity, and how cruel we can be to one another based purely on religious beliefs. An all too pertinent affair, with the millions of refugees seeking solace another pointed aspect of this narrative, it’s a film worth seeing now more than ever, to remind us all that we’re all human beings, and deserve to be treated as such.

Though the relevance does add an element of profundity and sadness to the piece, as you’d like to imagine that we’ve progressed since these dark days, and yet it would seem we’ve barely moved forwards at all. At one point Lord Mountbatten comments, “I can assure you that Muslims will not be treated as second class citizens” – a promise he strived to keep in 1947, and yet one that is still being questioned in present day America.