He has wooed audiences the world over with his portrayal of Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham in the hit British period TV drama series “Downton Abbey”. And now actor Hugh Bonneville is essaying Lord Mounbatten — the last Viceroy of British India — for Gurinder Chadha’s forthcoming film “Vicerory’s House”, currently being shot in the palatial locales of Jodhpur. And he’s loving it.
“I’ve been enjoying the palaces and monuments in Jodhpur hugely. It’s fascinating. We are filming for three and a half weeks,” the 51-year-old, who stars in the new season of Star World Premiere HD’s “Downton Abbey”, told IANS in a telephonic interview from Jodhpur.
He leads the cast of the film, helmed by Chadha, a globally known British filmmaker of Sikh origin.
“I’m playing Lord Mountbatten, Gillian Anderson is playing Lady Mountbatten. It is centred on events of partition, but there is a huge heart to the film. It is an emotional story set in the kitchens and staff of the viceroy’s house, that is the principal story,” Boneville said.
Bonneville will also be seen working with veteran Indian actor Om Puri and “Gangs of Wasseypur” actress Huma Qureshi in the film.
Without divulging much about Puri’s role in the film, Bonneville went on to assert that “he is a legend”.
“He is playing the father of one of our central characters. He is a legend; it has been an honour to have him,” he said.
“I have met the actors, but I haven’t started working with them. I am only doing scenes with Gillian as of now. Gurinder has been blown away with what they are bringing on screen. I’m really excited to work with them. I haven’t done a project with an Indian cast before; so I am really excited,” he added.
About the film, Bonneville said it reflects “the events that took place, the negotiations that led to the partition” of India.
“It was a painful period of recent history. It is delicately mapped out in the film. The pulse of story takes place with characters from the backstage world of the characters. The kitchen staff of the Lord and Lady is as important as the Lord and Lady of the establishment,” Bonneville added.
He was all praise for director Chadha — best known for “Bend It Like Beckham” — with whom he is working for the first time.
“The film is very delicately crafted by Chadha. She is a very fine director. Her roots are from here (India). We had the splendour of the Viceroy’s house as the principal character, where all these stories are unveiled,” he added.
As the film is based on “a delicate area of Indian history”, Bonneville says it does not claim to make any changes to “any course of history”.
“The film would not make any claims to change any course of history, but it would at least put a spotlight on what has been a delicate area of Indian history, which is deeply complicated… if nothing else, but explain it to a broader audience and hopefully allow people who want to understand where we are now… Because history explains our roots…,” he added.