Director Gurinder Chadha has described her new film as an “Upstairs, Downstairs vision of Partition”.
Set in India in 1947 during the Partition of India, it’s about the negotiations between Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville), the last Viceroy of India, and the country’s political leaders Nehru, Gandhi and Jinnah. They are of course upstairs; downstairs are the servants who harbour hopes and fears about how these negotiations will impact their own lives.
“In the film, Viceroy’s House is almost a character in its own right”, says Chadha. “It was designed by Lutyens and took 17 years to build. Its imposing architecture was an expression of Imperial power, intended to intimidate. I’m sure that when it was completed in 1929, no one could have imagined that in less than 20 years it would become the home of the first President of India (and it remains the largest residence of any head of state anywhere in the world!)”
After the Partition of India, Viceroy’s House was renamed Rashtrapati Bhavan and to this day it’s home to the President of India. Some scenes were filmed there, but most of the movie was shot at Umaid Bhawan Palace, which is one of the world’s largest private residences.
Perched above the city of Jodphur in the northern state of Rajasthan, it’s the residence of the Maharaja of Jodhpur and one of the last great palaces in India.
It’s not all private, though: part of it is a five-star hotel run by Taj Hotels.
Filming at Umaid Bhawan Palace
Spread over 26 acres, the Umaid Bhawan Palace was designed by English architect Henry Lanchester and took 15 years to build.
Notable guests include Naomi Campbell, who took over the entire hotel to throw a 50th birthday party for her boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend) Russian oligarch Vladimir Doronin in 2012. Kate Moss and Sarah Ferguson jetted in for the occasion and Diana Ross gave a private concert.
There are two restaurants, an outdoor swimming pool, a spa with an astrologer as well as the usual masseuse, a marble squash court, a vintage car museum, a billiards room, a croquet lawn and a bar stuffed with old hunting trophies.
Gillian Anderson and Hugh Bonneville aren’t impressed with the Art Deco opulence
The 64 rooms and suites boast Art Deco interiors as well as the usual mod-cons. For a real taste of royal living, guests can engage the services of a private butler.
So does it cost a princely sum?
Rooms begin at 39,000 rupees (about £475), while suites start at 63,000 per night (£770). Not bad when you think it’s a bit like checking into Buckingham Palace for a night.
Viceroy’s House is in UK cinemas on Friday 3 March 2017
For information about Umaid Bhawan Palace and to book, go to: tajhotels.com
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