Lord Mountbatten -- The Last Viceroy (1986)  (mini)




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).

helps bring independence to India



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

Part I.

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.  One negative is that Mountbatten  has a 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. 

Churchill sees the events 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. 

Mountbatten lands at Delhi.  With him are Edwina and his daughter Pamela.  He meets Nehru and then Ali Khan of the Muslim League.  There has been still another attack on a village.  There are 6,000 dead in Calcutta alone.  Mountbatten meets with 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.  There should only be a United India.  He believes that the Muslim League and the Muslim's overall leader Jinnah are stirring up religious hatred. 

Part II.

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 doctor 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. 

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 possible 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 ion 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.

Part III.

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. 

Edwin 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. 

Cyril Radcliff, the chairman of the Partition Committee, is given only five weeks to decides on where the boundaries between east and west Pakistan and India will be.  This is a difficult decision because it has to weave back and forth between pre-dominant Muslim and pre-dominant Hindu villages.  The boundaries will not be revealed until after independence has been declared. 

One other problem.  Mountbatten agrees that Independence Day will be August 14 at midnight instead of August 15 because the astrologers have said that August 15 is not a propitious dead.  

Part IV.

Delhi, August 14, 1947.  At the stroke of midnight, independence begins.  There is a big independence celebration. Mountbatten is now the Earl and Edwina is the Countess Mountbatten of Burma.  Another change is that the Viceroy House is the Government House.  Mountbatten is invited again to be the Governor-General of India.  Gandhi is upset by independence.  He says that he will observe the day as a day or mourning.  The crowds celebrating the day are so huge that Mountbatten and Edwina cannot get to the platform for the flag-raising ceremony.

Calcutta becomes a big problem.  It might erupt in religious violence at any moment.  Gandhi agrees to stay in Calcutta if the local Muslim leader will live with him in his house.  The man agrees. 

Mountbatten presents the new boundaries and everyone is hocked.  The Sikhs are particularly worried because five million of their people live in Pakistan while another five million live in India.   They are given a status report by Field Marshal Auchinleck,  Every village along a 50 mile stretch on either side of the border is on fire.  Ten percent of Lahore has been destroyed. 200,000 people are living in refugee camps.  Four to five million people are on the move between Pakistan and India. 

Edwina continues with her nursing efforts.  She is almost fearless.   She goes into many dangerous areas.  In Pakistan she virtually bullies a Pakistani officer into starting to treat decently the Hindus under his charge.   

Mountbatten and others are worried that Gandhi will leave Calcutta.  If he does, everything will blow up in their faces.  Gandhi goes on a hunger strike to protest the religious violence in Calcutta.  This leads to a significant reduction in the violence in Calcutta as all the city leaders agree to stop the religious violence.  This is soon called "the miracle of Calcutta."

Nehru speaks to Mountbatten about taking the exhausted Edwina with him to Simla for rest and relaxation.  But before he gets away, Mr. Jinnah suddenly shows up.  He wants Mountbatten's help with the Indian leaders.  Jinnah finds them to be unhelpful, maintaining a lack of communication with him and interfering in the affairs of Pakistan.  Mountbatten replies that now he is an Indian and can only advise, not command.  He then tells Jinnah he is headed for Simla. 

Part V.

Mountbatten is relaxing at Simla.  Vee Pee calls him to say that things are getting out of hand in Delhi.  Delhi is out of control and in chaos.  Mountbatten says that it is not his business anymore and says he is not coming to Delhi.  Vee Pee shames him by saying that if Delhi is lost then all of India will be lost.  Mountbatten and Edwina come to Delhi.  Nehru and Patel appoint him to lead the task force to save Delhi.  Mountbatten agrees. 

The main problem in Delhi is that there is three-quarters of a million refugees in Delhi.  There is not enough food or medical supplies for them.  Mountbatten suggests that marauders and looters will be shot on sight and that weapons will be banned. 

Edwina and Nehru take a look at the waves of refugees on the move.  Nehru tells Edwina that he has learned friendship from her husband and love from her.  They both agree that any other time than the current one things would have been different. 

A train arrives in Calcutta.  All the passengers have been killed.  The Hindus on the platform are shocked and then some of them start attacking the Muslims on the platform.  At this time Gandhi arrives and puts a stop to the violence.  He promises not to leave Calcutta while religious violence looms overhead. 

Delhi is nearing a condition of anarchy.  They only have food for two more days.  The hospitals are being attacked by religious fanatics.  Edwina works on setting up a United Council for Relieve and Welfare that combines both Hindus and Muslim resources to handle all the health and welfare issues. 

New arrives that Padan tribesmen have attacked Kashmir with the intent to annex it to Pakistan.  Nehru declare this an act of war on the part of Pakistan.  But Mountbatten urges that they wait until they find out real situation in Kashmir.  He says there is no proof that Jinnah is behind the aggression.  (We soon learn that Jinnah was behind it all.)  Mountbatten sends Vee Pee to talk with the Maharajah of Kashmir to get him to decide on whether he wants to be in India or Pakistan.  The Maharajah decides to go with India.  Now Mountbatten feels it is alright to send troops into Kashmir.  He also sends Auchinleck to talks with Jinnah about the consequences of the aggression in Kashmir. 

Nehru is ill.  Mountbatten and Edwina pay him a visit.  The now reinforced troops in Kashmir are able to stop any farther inroads into Kashmir and are starting to push them back. They can all breathe again.  Mountbatten leaves as he has a lot of work to do and tells Edwina to stay with Nehru.  

Part VI.

Jinnah wants to talk to Mountbatten about Kashmir becoming a part of India. With Lord Ismay, Mountbatten travels to Jinnah, who tells him that Pakistan will not recognize Kashmir as part of India.  Mountbatten says that the invading tribes had their chance, but they threw their victory away.

Edwina sees Nehru again and he tells her that he is feeling better. 

The head of the Congress Party has resigned.   Mountbatten observes that if Gandhi's candidate becomes the next president, Gandhi will be the leader, but if Nehru and Patel's candidate is the next president, it means that Gandhi is no longer the leader. 

Religious violence continues.  And the situation is still bad in Kashmir.  Tribesmen are still being sent into Kashmir in order to take it from India.  Mountbatten suggests that they refer the matter to the United Nations, but this does not appeal to Nehru or Patel.  Instead, they decide to cut-off any further monetary funds going to Pakistan.  This infuriates Gandhi who says that a sacred promise has been broken and he goes on a hunger strike.    He says that seven conditions must be met before he will end the strike, among these being the resumption of monetary funds going to Pakistan.  Gandhi has all his supporters very worried because his kidneys begin to fail.  Mountbatten and Edwina visit him, along with other leaders, including Nehru and Patel.  Nehru gives up and agrees to resume sending funds to Pakistan.  Gandhi ends his hunger strike.

Patel tells Gandhi that he is going to resign because Nehru is pushing him out of the picture.  Gandhi tells him not to resign and that the three men will get together and end the friction.  Gandhi walks outside amongst the gathered throng.  An assassin shoots him three times in the chest and Gandhi dies.  The assassin turns out to be one of the extremist Hindus (and, more importantly, is not a Muslim).  With Mountbatten's help, Nehru and Patel hug each other. 

Mountbatten is going home.  He wants to be First Lord of the Admiralty and that means he must get re-started on that career path.  Edwina is very upset.  When they first married, she was happy to play the loyal wife and helper to her husband.  But in India she has come into her own.  Her husband agrees that her work has been very important and that she is surely loved in India for her great humanitarian efforts.  But he tells her that he cannot leave her in India while he goes back to Britain.  She is very sad, but she agrees to go with him.  Nehru gives them a grand send-off and deeply thanks both of them for their wonderful work. 


Good movie.  My wife and I enjoyed it, although at times some of the political maneuverings were a bit hard to follow. (But with a DVD you can always go back and repeat the scenes or stop the action to see maps.)  An differing version of the relationship between Nehru is presented in the movie Jinnah (1998).  But regardless of their personal affairs, Mountbatten and Edwina set a wonderful example of outstanding human beings. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 



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