THE MOVIE: MOUNTBATTEN, THE LAST VICEROY
by Patrick L. Cooney
Zheer Jeddy of TreasureChest blog writes about this movie: I hadn’t heard of this movie before which is surprising, given its quality and the movie itself. Yes, the movie looks at events more from the point of view of the Indian Congress. But we can correct for that with our own knowledge.
All said and done it is a huge and grand saga of the independence story, heart-rending in many episodes. It’s breath-taking story with huge mob scenes, for instance, I was wonderstruck at how the movie-makers did scenes like that. A later movie, GANDHI, (many Academy Awards winner) was another tremendous saga, as you will remember.
I borrowed the movie from the library. Those in the west should be able to do the same.
This movie, Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy, was a British television series which was aired first on ITV in 1986. It depicts Lord Mountbatten’s time as Viceroy of Indi,a shortly after the Second World War in the days leading up to India’s independence.
For those who are unable to get hold of the DVD, can see it on YouTube. But in this case it is split up into smaller “episodes” which is pretty much a nuisance. Even then it is much worth watching.
Below am listing links to six episodes of its first part. There are five parts. I strongly recommend you take the trouble to see this movie.
ABOUT THE MOVIE
Director: Tom Clegg.
Starring: Patrick Allen (Auchinleck), Michael Byrne (George Abell), Sam Dastor (Gandhi), Nigel Davenport (Ismay), A.K. Hangal (Patel), Wendy Hiller (Princess Victoria), Owen Holder (King George VI), David Lyon (Lt Col Vernon Erskine-Crum), David Quilter (Alan), Ian Richardson (Nehru), John Rolfe (Attlee), Vladek Sheybal (Jinnah), Jeremy Sinden (Brockman), Janet Suzman (Lady Edwina Mountbatten), Malcolm Terris (Winston Churchill), Julian Wadham (Arthur), Nicol Williamson (Lord Louis Mountbatten).
India 1946. Arthur comes in. There is rioting between Hindus and Muslims. Welcome to Calcutta. There are lots of homeless people. The situation is appalling. On this occasion Hindus get attacked by Muslims.
Britain needs a good Viceroy for India. They are considering employing Lord Mountbatten. But one negative that Mountbatten has, is his playboy image. And yet, he does have the common touch. We need a diplomat because independence for India is expected in June 1948. Mountbatten is willing to take the post but he wants full powers to make his own decisions.
He goes in to see the King, Bertie. Bertie has never seen India, but he wants Mountbatten to try as hard as he can to make sure that India maintains at least some relationship with Britain.
He tells his wife Edwina that Prime Minister Attlee has asked him to be the next Viceroy of India. It will be a difficult post. Churchill opposes independence for India. Mountbatten’s mother does not like the idea of his being Viceroy. She feels he will be just another scapegoat, just like his father.
The Muslim Day of Action begins. Goodbye to Continental methods. There is tough talk. If the Congress wants war, then the Muslims say they accept the offer. For them India will be divided or India will be destroyed.
There is more looting, thousands of homeless, hundreds dead and cholera is spreading.
[Much about this in a later post]
Churchill sees the evenists in India as a shameful abandonment of the Empire. One of his relatives, Pug, wants to go to India with Mountbatten. He says about the man: “He’s betraying his family, his king, his nation.” He adds that he doesn’t intend to speak to him ever again.
File picture (1958-65): Lord Louis Mountbatten with wife Edwina Mountbatten (left) and daughter Pamela during their visit to India, in New Delhi.
Mountbatten lands at Delhi. With him are Edwina and his daughter Pamela. He meets Nehru and then Liaquat Ali Khan of the Muslim League. There has been still another attack on a village, 6,000 dead in Calcutta alone. Mountbatten meets Nehru.
Meanwhile, Gandhi is reconciling the Hindus and Muslims that both live in the same village. Mountbatten, Edwina and Pamela go to a party given by Nehru. Nehru says that there should be no talk of division for India. It will only be a United India. He believes that the Muslim League and the Muslims’ overall leader Jinnah are stirring up religious hatred.
NEHRU WITH PATEL (centre) and C. Rajagopalachari. Sir Terence Allen Shone, Secretary of State for the Dominions, reported that “Patel has never made any secret of his anti-Muslim or pro-Sikh sentiments”; that Nehru possessed a “pliability which Patel does not possess”; and that the “only man who talked peace was Rajaji” – he proposed a settlement based on the partition of Kashmir.
Mountbatten meets with the Indian leader Patel. He threatens to resign if he does not get his way on a small detail. Mountbatten calls his bluff by saying if he does not withdraw his talk of resignation, he will go home to England. Edwina works with the Red Cross. She tries to help some of the sick Indians and Muslims she sees, but there are no doctors or money for treatment.
Mountbatten and Edwina meet Gandhi. Gandhi impresses on Mountbatten that there be no partition of India. But Mountbatten says that there may be no alternative if Jinnah won’t cooperate. Later Mountbatten meets with Jinnah who pushes the idea of partition.
There is a real impasse between the Muslims and India. Gandhi tells Nehru that since Jinnah will not accept an India run by the Congress Party of India, then they should hand over the government to Jinnah and let him form a government. Nehru is not at all happy with the suggestion.
Mountbatten is even more sure of the necessity of partition for India, but he is afraid that Nehru and the Congress Party will not accept it. Then one of his staff, Vee Pee, tells everyone that he remembers that the Congress Party in some of its documents have already accepted the idea of partition by discussing the possibility of future sub-division.
Ten thousand Hattans are threatening harm to the Muslims. They want to speak to Mountbatten, who, with Edwina, bravely walks in amongst these people.
SEE: The upcoming post, The massacre at Garh Makteshwar .
In the Punjab there has been a massacre of bus travelers. The wells are choked with the bodies of children. Edwina is so traumatized by the violence that she tells her husband: “Let there be a Pakistan if that’s what it takes to stop the violence.” Mountbatten takes his family for a short vacation at the Vice Regal Lodge Simla. From there they can see Tibet in the distance.
Vee Pee suggests that maybe India will accept dominion status. That means that independence can be declared relatively quickly without a lot of problems and that India and a possibly Pakistan could both be members of the British Commonwealth. Nehru comes to visit. Mountbatten, gives him a copy of the draft plan for independence. Nehru catches Mountbatten off-guard by saying the plan is “completely unacceptable.” It would split India up like the Balkans.
He says that they will accept the idea of a Pakistan for the Muslims, but he does not want the princes to be able to choose to be independent of India. There should only be one choice: Pakistan or India. Mountbatten hurriedly prepares a new draft. Nehru reads this version with the corrections for Nehru’s objections and the Indian leader likes it.
Mountbatten has to go back to London to explain himself. Vee Pee and Edwina go with him. There is fear that Churchill might block the bill for independence for Indian in the House of Lords. So Mountbatten pays Churchill a visit. He explains that if they grant independence to India immediately they will accept dominion status.
Churchill does not like Gandhi. But he agrees to help get the independence bill through the House of Lords.
Mountbatten says to Jinnah that he now has his Pakistan. He thinks everything is set. But Jinnah proves difficult. He says he has to put the decision before the Muslim League. Mountbatten explains to him that this will wreck the whole plan. He gets Jinnah to give his consent to the plan in a very unobtrusive way so that Mountbatten can go on with the plan.
Mounbatten explains to the assembled leaders that Independence Day will be 15 August, 1947. That is less than three months away — only 72 days.
Some of Jinnah’s own people attack his retinue because they think Jinnah has sold them out.
Edwina works on setting up a nursing council in India.
Mountbatten proceeds ahead. Radcliff will be the chairman of the Partition Committee. To solve the problem with the princely states, Mountbatten wants to send Patel to speak with the leaders of the princely states. There are 565 members of the Chamber of Princes. But Patel wants Mountbatten to speak to them instead. Patel tells him that he will only allow six refusals.
Nehru asks Mountbatten to be the first Governor General of India, an advisory position. Mountbatten is very enthused but when Edwina hears of it she says “Don’t expect me to advise you.” She is a bit miffed that he had told her that they would be in India for only a limited amount of time and now he is talking about an open-ended amount.
He later learns that Jinnah also wants him to stay on as a Governor-General but for both Pakistan and India.
Previous: Rewinding the Tragic Saga 1947
Source Images from top to bottom (1) Title image (2) (3)
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- Live blog from 1947 (ibnlive.in.com)