In 2009 The Indian government has ordered that love scenes between characters based on its first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten, the wife of Britain’s last Viceroy, be deleted from a new Hollywood film of their romance.
Officials revealed they had given permission for the film Indian Summer, starring Hugh Grant and Cate Blanchett, to be filmed on location in India on the condition that scenes showing the couple in bed, kissing, and dancing, are deleted.
Another in which Nehru declares his love for Lady Mountbatten is also understood to have been deleted.
The script was vetted by a committee of senior government officials who were concerned it portrayed Nehru in a poor light.
The film, which is due for release in 2011, is based on Alex Von Tunzelmann’s book Indian Summer, The Secret History of the End of Empire, which tells the story of Nehru and Lady Mountbatten’s “intense and clandestine love affair” during the Mountbattens’ return to India for the handover and partition in 1947.
Ms Von Tunzelmann yesterday said she was surprised by the claim because her book had not depicted any “love scenes”. She was expecting to see a copy of the script as a consultant to the film, but had not yet seen one, she said.
A spokeswoman for India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry declined to discuss the details of scenes deleted from the script, but confirmed it had been approved for filming “subject to a few restrictions”.
All foreign films shot in India must be approved by a vetting committee which screens the script to make sure “nothing detrimental to the image of India or the Indian people is shot or included in the film”.
The portrayal of Nehru and the protection of his reputation remains a sensitive issue for both India’s Congress-led government and its opposition.
A recent book which blamed Nehru for India’s partition caused an outcry and led to its author, a former foreign minister, being expelled from the Bharatiya Janata Party.
More than 60 years after India’s independence, the country’s largest party is still dominated by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty – Congress President Sonia Gandhi is the widow of Nehru’s grandson Rajiv Gandhi, and mother of heir-apparent Rahul, Nehru’s great-grandson.
The film is expected to be shot on location in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and the capital Delhi, and to feature Irfan Khan, one of the stars of Slumdog Millionaire as Nehru. It will be directed by Joe Wright, whose credits include Atonement and Pride and Prejudice.
The nature of Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten’s relationship is still hotly contested in India, where many prefer to believe the “lonely widower” and the adventurous Vicereine were devoted but platonic friends.
Their view is shared by the Mountbattens’ daughter, Pamela, who described their “special relationship” in her memoir India Remembered: A Personal Account of the Mountbattens During the Transfer of Power.
She described the relationship as a “happy threesome” with her father Lord Mountbatten and quoted a letter in which he said Nehru and Lady Mountbatten “are so sweet together, they really dote on each other in the nicest way”.