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CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV: Hot sex scandal at heart of tumult that changed world

India 1947: Partition in color

Rating: rating showbiz 4

Van der Valk

Rating: rating showbiz 2

The messiest division in history, between India and Pakistan, caused countless thousands of deaths – and created two future nuclear superpowers.

An important reason for the deadly split, as with so many divorces, was extramarital sex. And the gruesome history India 1947: Partition In Color (C4) makes an even more sensational claim. It depicts Lady Edwina Mountbatten, great-aunt of Prince Charles, as a woman whose rampant sex drive has changed the world map.

Her red-hot affair with the most powerful man in India wiped out any hopes of keeping the country united after independence from the British Empire. The wife of the Viceroy of India, Louis Mountbatten, and her lover, Congress leader Pandit Nehru, slept together within days of their first meeting. She was 45, he 57.

This two-part documentary made it clear that Mountbatten was not only aware of the affair, but also actively participated in it. His biographer, Andrew Lownie, pointed to a photo of the trio in an open-top sports car, as if they’d ended up in bed together, “almost like a threesome.”

This two-part documentary made it clear that Mountbatten was not only aware of the affair, but also actively participated in it.  His biographer, Andrew Lownie (pictured), pointed to a photo of the trio in an open-top sports car, as if they had snapped into bed together, 'almost like some sort of threesome'

This two-part documentary made it clear that Mountbatten was not only aware of the affair, but also actively participated in it. His biographer, Andrew Lownie (pictured), pointed to a photo of the trio in an open-top sports car, as if they had snapped into bed together, ‘almost like some sort of threesome’

Nehru made no effort to disguise his close relationship with the pair — enraging his great political rival, the leader of the Muslim League, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The causes of Partition, its heroes and villains, are still hugely disputed. This version puts the majority of the blame on Nehru and his followers, stating that anti-Muslim violence across India caused Jinnah to fear genocide.

Mountbatten is portrayed as a shallow, vain bumbler, whose snobbery made negotiation impossible. He dismissed Jinnah as “a psychopathic case” and “a blood clot.”

According to journalist Lakshman Menon, the grandson of Mountbatten’s chief assistant, Edwina’s bed-hopping was not considered shocking “by the standards of their time and their class.”

But while this documentary is well-informed and entertaining, it doesn’t tell the full story. In fact, Lady M’s antics had sparked a scandalous libel lawsuit as early as 1932, after a Sunday newspaper denounced her affair with black American actor Paul Robeson.

“The couple were caught in compromising circumstances,” the newspaper reports. “The Society woman has been hinted at leaving England for a few years to let the affair blow over, and the hint comes from a quarter that can’t be ignored.”

In other words, George V and his wife, Queen Mary, intervened. This was all true, although the newspaper did post an apology. Edwina detested the royal family for the rest of her life. How she and her husband could have gotten oversight of the Indian transfer defies belief.

When the taciturn Amsterdammer returned, oversexed women threw themselves at the Dutch detective Van Der Valk

When the taciturn Amsterdammer returned, oversexed women threw themselves at the Dutch detective Van Der Valk

Nothing about the show is original, especially the murders of young women.  Van Der Valk is not unwatchable, but also not memorable

Nothing about the show is original, especially the murders of young women. Van Der Valk is not unwatchable, but also not memorable

Women like her are not uncommon in the world of Dutch detective Van Der Valk (ITV). When the taciturn Amsterdammer returned, oversexed women threw themselves at him. He was first chatted in a canal bar by a group of enthusiastic Eastern Europeans. A complete stranger ducked in, kissed him and dragged him back to hers. A day later she had moved in his tour boat.

That didn’t stop one of the suspects in his murder investigation from hanging out with hopeful chain-smoking cheroots. “I was hoping to at least be handcuffed,” she purred.

Van Der Valk (Marc Warren) is devoid of charm or gossip, so it must be his status as a walking stereotype that women find irresistible. Every character in this crime series is cliché.

Nothing about the show is original, especially the murders of young women. Van Der Valk is not unwatchable, but also not memorable.

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