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The history of Partition told to us is a lie: Filmmaker Gurinder Chadha

Chadha's latest film Partition: 1947, also known as Viceroy's House, is based on two books, Freedom at Midnight and The Shadow of the Great Game.

Shriram Iyengar

Filmmaker Gurinder Chadha’s film Partition: 1947 revolves around the Partition of India that took place as the country achieved independence from British rule in 1947.

Speaking about the research she had to conduct for the movie, Chadha said the history of Partition told to us officially is a lie.

She said, "I realized during the research that the history I have been taught about why Partition happened was totally a lie. Complete lie! We have been told that Partition happened as a reaction to us fighting with each other, whereas my research shows that Partition was definitely a political act. It was done purposely for self-interest."

The film is based on two books on Partition. The first one is the famous Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins. “For many years it was my father’s favourite book," she said. "It’s still on the shelf.”

Watch Gurinder Chadha talking about her film Viceroy's House, at the Berlin film festival 2017:

How Chadha optioned the second book has an interesting story. It was suggested to her by none other than Prince Charles. When she told him that she was making a film on the book Freedom at Midnight, Charles recommended the second book. "He said, ‘No no, you need to read some other book. Please get Narendra Singh Sarila’s book,’ which I hadn’t heard of. Went to five bookshops; found it. It was mind-blowing.”

The book was The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition. Chadha also revealed the interesting circumstances in which Sarila found material for the book. 

“He had been at the British library in London in 1997," she recounted. "He was sitting there, writing a book on the maharajas of India, when an Indian lady, Mrs Ghosh, who was the librarian, was given these papers, top-secret documents, and told to index them. She saw the papers, read the significance, went to Narendra and said, ‘Sir, I think you should look at these papers.’ He ditched the book he was writing and wrote The Shadow of the Great Game.”

Partition: 1947 is the film's name for its India release. Internationally, it is known by the title Viceroy's House. The film stars Huma Qureshi, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal and Hugh Bonneville.