A look at the historic event that changed India forever and a love story of two people caught in between the divide, this film records history in an engaging way
By Vanshika Devuni Kalanidhi
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, Gillian Anderson, Om Puri
Music: AR Rahman
Direction: Gurinder Chaddha
We had just finished watching the movie and as my mother and I were driving down the road in her car at midnight, enjoying the rain and listening to music, something I saw struck me. Independence Day had gone by a few days ago and there were tricolour posters on buses and autorickshaws everywhere -- this made me suddenly feel grateful that we live in a truly independent country.
But it is only after you watch a film like Partition: 1947 that you realise what it took to reach where we are today. The freedom struggle, the conflict in the last years before independence, the problems that India and its leaders had to face in 1947 is what this film is all about. The film is largely from the point of view of the Viceroy and what was happening in his household, while also throwing light upon the horrors of the Partition, which gave birth to two nations -- India and Pakistan.
Although the movie does not follow a definite plot, it certainly makes a history book look more interesting. It begins with a love story between Alia and Jeet, who are both working for the British. Then it moves on to the arrival of Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India (Hugh Bonneville) and the problems he faces while ensuring the transition of India into an independent country. He is portrayed as being committed to leaving India better than what it was when the British Raj ended. The film attempts to show the human side of the Viceroy, as many Indians may be prejudiced against him because of the partition that happened eventually. Although I haven’t studied this topic in much detail, the Viceroy’s wife, Lady Edwina Mountbatten (Gillian Anderson) and her thoughts about India, really put things in a new perspective. She is depicted as tolerant, caring and loving.
Then we see how Jinnah lays down his conditions, Nehru objecting to it and Gandhiji insisting that the country not be divided. However, it is when we get to know the real reason behind the division of the countries – to serve the business interests of the British – that your blood starts boiling and you feel empathy for those who had to leave and go to Pakistan.
The impressions of characters such as Gandhi and Nehru are also lovable. My favourite character in the film is Mahatma Gandhi, because of the realistic portrayal by the actor who plays him -- including the physical flaws and the toothless smile. The film shifts again to the love story of Alia Noor (Huma Qureshi), a Muslim girl and Jeet Kumar (Manish Dayal), a Hindu boy. Some scenes are striking in the way there are picturised, especially the scene where Jeet asks Noor to dance with him and how within minutes, the Hindu-Muslim riots erupt. The scene where a chef spits on a British employee after he objects to him yelling slogans of 'Pakistan Zindabad', is also chilling.
The scenes depicting the conversations between Gandhi and Jinnah, and Jeet and his friends about the divide, are good examples of how even best friends can become enemies when it comes to nationality or religion. The horrors of Partition -- riots, starvation and stampede, and eventually the Indo-Pakistan war are also shown in the film. The movie ends with Alia and Jeet reuniting at the border. And we are told that the director Gurinder Chaddha is the grand daughter of a woman who fled from Pakistan to India and in the process, loses her daughter.
The sets, make up and costumes look authentic. The actors chosen to play Gandhi and Nehru looked apt for their roles. This movie is suitable for all ages. Teenagers would enjoy this story if they have read about the event in their history books or have trouble understanding it. It would probably fetch them more marks in their exam.
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