Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Hugh Bonneville, Simon Callow
Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) arrives at Viceroy's House in Delhi in 1947 with his strong-willed wife Edwina (Gillian Anderson) and daughter Pamela (Lily Travers). After 3 centuries of rule, the British have announced that they will be leaving India. The war has exhausted the British and they cannot afford to maintain their Empire in the East. Queen Victoria is the empress of India, but she has never set foot in the country.
Lord Lionel 'Pug' Ismay is Mountbatten's Chief of Staff. Ismay believes that India is not ready to run a country. Ewart (David Hayman) runs the affairs of the Viceroy House. Miss Reading (Roberta Taylor) heads the female staff and works with Edwina.As the final Viceroy of India, Mountbatten is in charge of overseeing the dissolution of the British Raj and the establishment of an independent Indian nation. Mountbatten attempts to mediate a disagreement between the two major Indian political leaders, Jawaharlal Nehru (Tanveer Ghani), who wants India to remain intact as one nation after independence, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Denzil Smith), who wishes to establish the separate Muslim state of Pakistan.
At that point India has 300 million Hindus and 100 million Muslims. Nehru argues that 2.5 million fought for the British in WW II, against the promise of Independence. Already Hindu-Muslim riots have claimed 40,000 lives.
Many Indians believe that Mountbatten is not sincere in his promise of transfer of power, since he is the King's cousin, and people have heard these promises before. Ismay believes that Mountbatten is the person to bring the political groups together and force a compromise.
Mountbatten knows that Britain has no means to maintain the peace in India and wants to hand over power to an Indian Government.Edwina is appalled at the social statistics of India (92% illiteracy) and the infant mortality rates (25% before the age of 4 months, and 50% before the age of 5 years) and urges her husband to take action, but Mountbatten is firm in his resolve to attend to the matter of Independence of India. Edwina is very kind towards her Indian staff and frequently belittles her English staff for insulting Indians.
Edwina retains an Indian Head Chef Ram Lal Chandra (Raj Zutshi) to lead her kitchen and even goes to the kitchen to meet and praise the entire staff.Meanwhile, Mountbatten's newly arrived valet Jeet (Manish Dayal) encounters the beautiful Aalia (Huma Qureshi), whom he had fallen in love with previously. Aalia works at the Viceroy's house and her primary duty is to care for Pamela.
Aalia's father was jailed in Lahore for supporting Gandhi and in jail Jeet was a Hindu policeman who supported him. Thats how Aalia and Jeet met, and Jeet fell in love with Aalia, although Aalia maintains that she is engaged to Asif (Arunoday Singh). Aalia continues to spurn Jeet because he is Hindu and she Muslim; she fears that she will disappoint her invalid father Ali (Om Puri).Mountbatten meets Nehru who is staunchly opposed to the partition of India. Edwina is shown to have a connection with Nehru. Personally, Mountbatten also believes that dividing India would be a tragedy. Nehru believes and trusts Mountbatten.
Jinnah meanwhile is opposed to unity and wants Pakistan as he knows that Muslim rights will not be protected in a Hindu India. He says that Gandhi and Nehru have never respected his views and so he does not trust them to value the views of his fellow Muslims. Jinnah argues that British cut Ireland, and Palestine to preserve the peace, and they need to do the same in India to avoid a civil war.
Finally, he meets Gandhi (Neeraj Kabi), who tells Mountbatten to invite Jinnah to form the first Government of India and he guarantees to bring Congress in line to accept this solution. But Nehru refuses to endorse this and instead backs Partition.With riots erupting across India, the British decide to accelerate the independence process. Mountbatten is intent upon a one-state solution, but with intensifying violence between Muslims and Hindus he reluctantly accepts the Partition of India. Edwina wants Mountbatten to use more time to persuade people of the one-state solution, but Mountbatten is now convinced that India in its present form cannot be governed. He returns to London to make his case to the Government.Mountbatten is given only a couple months to carve out a separate state from the existing territory, with the help of an inexperienced English lawyer Cyril Radcliffe (Simon Callow). The prevailing public opinion is that Britain is trying to rush Independence as they do not want to be held responsible for the oncoming carnage.
Jeet continues to pursue Aalia, until it is revealed that she has been betrothed since childhood to Asif. Asif is the personal chauffeur of Jinnah and convinces Aalia to move to Pakistan.
Riots break all over the country as communal passions deepen at the talk of partition. The servants at Viceroy House are forced to choose between staying in India or going to Pakistan. Assets and liabilities are to be divided as 80% to India and 20% to Pakistan.
Aalia realizes that she is in love with Jeet and affirms her loyalty to him. Aalia wants to go to Pakistan, but Jeet makes a plea to stay in India.With 4 days left to go for transfer of power, the boundaries of the new nation are still not finalized. Radcliffe wants Ismay to involve the UN to draw the boundaries of the 2 countries. At this point Ismay reveals the existence of a policy document, created by Churchill 2 years ago, outlining the future of the Indian subcontinent. This document also had the proposed map for division of Punjab.
Mountbatten is enraged to find that his Chief of Staff Lord Ismay (Michael Gambon), has been working covertly to draw the boundaries of Pakistan in order to create a buffer state between the Indian subcontinent and the Soviet Union. He realizes that he has been used as a pawn and the displacement of millions of people will result.Jeet is devastated to learn that his entire family have been slaughtered in the Punjab. Although Aalia rejects Jeet, and she chooses to depart for Pakistan with Asif and her father for his safety. Days later Jeet reads in the newspaper that the night train she had boarded was attacked and everyone was killed. In anger he brandishes a knife at Mountbatten, before resigning his post.With Delhi overwhelmed with refugees, the Mountbatten decide to stay on in India to assist where they can. While Jeet volunteers to help with the refugees, Aalia is brought in badly injured but alive, the lone survivor of the train attack. She recognizes Jeet and shouts for him, and the two are reunited.