Film: Partition: 1947
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, Michael Gambon
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Gambling for a sentiment rousing expose without the technical accomplishment to support it, Gurinder Chadha’s take on India-Pakistan partition which accords blame to Churchill and Wavell’s 1945 document that incorporated Jinnah’s plan and made the line of control one of strategic importance, is a damp squib delivered in hyperbole.
There’s a love story delineating the anguish of displacement and religious turbulence that overtook the country during those times – between a young looking turban-less Sardar Jeet (Manish Dayal) and a much older looking Muslim girl Aalia (Huma Qureshi) daughter of a Freedom Fighter, Rahim Noor (Om Puri). Needless to say, there’s an orchestrated separation between the two, in the name of duty leading up to a presumption of death in the ill-fated ‘Train to Pakistan.’
The reference here to Pamela Rooks cinematic take on Khushwant Singh’s novel is belittling, to say the least. Central Players in this historical blunder of a movie includes Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville), Lady Mountbatten (Gillian Anderson), their daughter Pamela (Lily Travers), Lord Ismay (Michael Gambon), Gandhi (Niraj Kabi), Nehru (Tanveer Ghani), Jinnah (Densel Smith) and many others from the freedom movement. But their representations here are largely caricaturish and hopelessly flawed.
The Mountbattens have been projected as saviours who were dealt a bad card when they were endowed with the accursed responsibility of setting India free. Even the document that supposedly exposes the British chicanery, is bandied about like a piece of trash. Most of the film is set in the current Presidential Palace/Rashtrapati Bhavan which was then inhabited by the Viceroy and his entourage. There’s archival footage to showcase newsclips about the riots that stalked the country in the wake of its freedom.
Nehru’s inspiring speech that followed the fixing of dates for the declaration of India and Pakistan as secular democratic republics, plays in the background while refugees scatter about looking on in anguish for having lost their loved ones. There’s no real feeling to the experience because Gurinder Chadha’s hopes of garnering empathy rest largely on the momentous occasion rather than drawing up believable arcs for the characters within. Unfortunate this!