Another Upstairs Downstairs?
Smart And Spicy
September 7, 2017
It's time for a couple of lyrical, and not so, anniversaries. The time was sensational. A half-century ago, The Beatles released their seminal Sgt. Pepper album, shaking up rock music and culture. The album won four Grammy's, was number one for 15 weeks, and ranked number one in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".A peek at making the album, "It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond," features John Lennon (in extreme close-up) explaining the group, with anecdotes by Lennon’s sister and Beatles’ intimate. Director Alan Parker gives insights on why the tours stopped, those lyrics and that album cover. Parker, who says he loved The Beatles since he was nine, hopes it will "give the audience an intimate sense of the band, the time and the impact." It's out on VOD/ DVD September 8. Indian classical music deeply influenced the Sgt. Pepper album, strongly affected by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. When George Harrison wrote "Within You Without You," he was inspired by Hindu classical music, adding sitar, tabla, dilrubas and tamburas. "We're not trying to outwit the public. The whole idea is to try a little bit to lead people into different tastes," Harrison said in 1967. The intersection of lace and blood could be the subtitle of the story of Indian independence. When the British left India they divided it into India and Pakistan. A passionate story marks the 70th anniversary, filmed with violence and marked by exquisite beauty, styled as “Upstairs, Downstairs.”"Viceroy's House" is magnificent, absorbing impeccable details of the most miniscule facets in a grand house. Watching the huge staff getting ready for the new Viceroy's arrival is fascinating. The Viceroy was appointed by Britain to rule India. His house, the whole of India, is the grander part; his house, the actual building that was his home, and his (downstairs) household, yield alternate secrets.
There's a wonderful scene when the new Viceroy meets his 500-person household staff, filmed in the real Viceroy's House. Most Americans didn't have the chance to learn about India or Pakistan. Did you know Pakistan has the sixth biggest population in the world? Created as a homeland for Indian Muslims, now a nuclear power, Pakistan’s story might not seem riveting to you. Ah, but it is. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they threw in a love story, though that's not the main plot. "You're giving a nation back to its people, how bad can it be?" the Viceroy is asked. At that time, 92% were illiterate; four out of five babies died before age five. Sectarian violence between Muslims, Hindu and Sikhs, created a crisis with 14 million displaced people; up to a million died. Independence was a celebration for both India and newly-created Pakistan. Gillian Anderson ("X-Files") was amazing. I didn't know she had it in her; she was definitely the best actor in the film (which also stars Hugh Bonneville ("Downton Abbey") as the Viceroy, the King's cousin. Anderson's "bidialectal," proficient in two English dialects. Born in Chicago, growing up in London, England, moving back to Michigan at 11; she now lives in London. So speaking in a British accent comes naturally. About the movie's accuracy: It's hard to know, as an American, how to judge. I asked my British friend M. if the story were true. He reminded me that the film is one woman's view, so it could be accurate as to her view. Director Gurinder Chadha tells a charming story about Prince Charles. Her original source was "Freedom At Midnight;" a book her father loved. She spent two years writing a script. "Then one day I was in St. James’ Palace at a reception for the British-Asian Trust charity, of which Prince Charles is the Patron and I’m one of the ambassadors. Given that the Prince of Wales is actually Mountbatten’s great-nephew (Charles even considered the former Viceroy his “honorary grandfather”), I couldn’t resist telling him that I was making a film about his great-uncle. "Prince Charles said, 'You have to read this book, 'The Shadow of the Great Game'by Narendra Singh, the Maharaja of Sarila and Mountbatten’s ADC [aide-de-camp or personal assistant], because it tells you what was really going on.'"
Later that week, Chadha interviewed the author (former Indian Ambassador to France). "It turned out that, while researching another book at the British Library in 1997, he’d happened upon two de-classified “Top Secret” documents from 1945/47 which revealed the concern about handing India back and political arguments suggesting how some of northern India could be annexed to serve British military and strategic interests in the region. "He also came upon a map for partition that had been drawn up by the British government as early as 1946." Singh concluded that unlike its public neutral stand, Britain clandestinely supported Jinnah's idea of partition to protect its oil interests in the Persian Gulf, while positioning to block the Soviet Union's access. "The theory was that if the British supported the creation of a Muslim homeland separate from India then that new country would be indebted to Britain and help protect British interests in the region." Singh was convinced that Mountbatten was not aware that many in Britain's government preferred partition. "That revelation took the script in a whole new direction” said Chadha. Hiring a new writer, "we depicted a Mountbatten who was not the Machiavellian architect of partition but a man caught up unwittinglyin a bigger political game." Doesn't change the fact that it's marvelous. ______________________________________________ Carole Bell is a writer interested in everything. You can write to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org