Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy (1986)

Brent Walker PLC

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Date Added: 13 years ago.

Documentary Description

Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy was a 6-part British miniseries, first telecast in the US on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre. The series covers the years 1946 through 1947, during which time the British government granted independence to India. War hero Lord Mountbatten (Nicol Williamson), although considered a political lightweight, is appointed the task of overseeing the transition of power. It is the sort of test that separates the Lords from the boys: Mountbatten must not only unite the squabbling factions within India, but also counteract the rhetoric of Winston Churchill (Malcolm Terris), who is dead set against losing the Empire's "jewel of the crown." Once independence is officially granted, Mountbatten is challenged with open combat between the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, as well as territorial demands from Pakistan and the Kashmir. Also appearing in this epic production is Sam Dastor as Gandhi, Ian Richardson as Nehru, and Vladek Sheybal as Jinnah. Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy was first seen on Masterpiece Theatre from January 26 through March 2, 1986. A lavish production that captures the pomp, ceremony, and complexity of British and Indian politics, Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy stars the great Nicol Williamson (Excalibur, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution) in one of his last substantial roles. As the six-part mini-series begins, Mountbatten accepts a position that almost everyone around him thinks is folly: The Viceroy of India, specifically charged with overseeing the transition to India's independence from British rule. Only his wife, Edwina Mountbatten (Janet Suzman, The Singing Detective), supports him and, in India, finds herself drawn ever more deeply into the troubles of the country's emergence. This Masterpiece Theatre production is a bit like its subject: Stodgy in many ways but with surprising and engaging flashes of wit and drama. This idealized portrait of Mountbatten presents him as noble but accessible, wise and spontaneous---but Williamson's charisma and talent makes him vivid nonetheless. Intriguingly, what grows most compelling about Lord Mountbatten might sound like its dullest aspect; namely, the slow and often chaotic navigation of the political world. The series meticulously follows the seemingly endless tasks involved in forming a country, then dives into the struggle that followed, as Pakistan was created as a solution to horrific religious strife. Mountbatten shuttles diplomatically amongst the Indian leaders--Gandhi (Sam Dastor), Nehru (Ian Richardson, Gormenghast), Patel (A. K. Hangal), and Jinnah (Vladek Sheybal), who becomes the villain of the piece, with his Machiavellian scheming and heavy-lidded eyes. Some may find it questionable or even offensive to have India's history filtered through the life of a British politician (as well as the casting of a U.K. actor as Nehru); but Lord Mountbatten, despite its Eurocentric bent, strives to give a respectful portrait of this tumultuous era.
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