Monday 12 April 2010

Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy

In 1986, Ian played Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, in the mini-series, Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy. Producer, Judith De Paul had been searching unsuccessfully for an Indian actor to perform the role, when she stumbled across a poor quality photocopy photo of Ian (who had hoped to play Mountbatten, but wasn't tall enough). She covered the top half of the head and declared, 'we have our Nehru'.

As part of his agreement to play the role, Ian insisted on being flown to India and sitting through many hours of newsreels and steeping himself in the Indian culture. He came to love the country and its people.

The Indian Government were adamant that there should be no overt manifestations of the rumoured affair between Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten (played by Janet Suzman). However, the actors were able to engender a palpable electricity between the two characters.

For those of us who have watched the drama, the final scene, in which Nehru bids farewell to Edwina, shall remain unforgettable.

Mountbatten:The Last Viceroy was directed by Tom Clegg, and starred Nicol Williamson as Lord Louis Mountbatten and Sam Dastor as Gandhi.

There are contributions from Sam Dastor and Janet Suzman in We Could Possibly Comment: Ian Richardson Remembered , as well as some of Ian's own recollections of the making of the drama.

The DVD is still available from a few sources, such as Amazon UK, Acorn Media and Ciao.Co.UK and scenes from the Drama have just recently been put onto YouTube.


  1. Thanks for sharing these clips. Another great performance!

  2. Yes, and in fact many women have felt that to have been his sexiest screen performance - which shows how powerful just looks and small gestures can be.

    A writer friend has expressed surprise that Ian played Nehru rather than an Indian actor - it wouldn't happen nowadays, of course, but he was highly praised for his portrayal.

  3. And rightly so. Of course, as you say, it wouldn't happen today, but it didn't seem offensive to me in the way that, say, casting Alec Guinness as Professor Godbole in A Passage to India most clearly was.

  4. Sharon, I met Tom Clegg at the end of last year when we were having a drink to mark the passing of Troy Kennedy Martin, and a very nice man he was.

    As I mentioned on Brian’s blog a couple of months back, I know it’s very tardy of me but I finally got around to reading We Could Possibly Comment and found it an absolute joy. Although there were a few occasions I found I’d got something in my eye, which was strange because I don’t remember a window being open.

    It was interesting to discover where he lived in Devon because the farms my folks owned, Foxcote and then later Ford Farm, were on the lane that runs from Tedburn St Mary to Dunsford.