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Gian Singh & Avtar Singh are officers with the Indian Army serving under the command of Andrew Stilwell, who lives with his sister, Margaret, in Delhi. During 1941 the trio are dispatched to active duty in Burma where Andrew is killed. Both Gian and Avtar return to their village in Sarsa, Punjab, where Gian lives with his widowed mom, Shanti. During 1947, after 350 years of occupying India, the British decide to leave, but not before separating Islamic Pakistan and secular India. Millions of Muslims crossed from India to Pakistan, while an equal number of Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians crossed over from the other side. A group of Muslims who were crossing over to Pakistan are attacked by a mob of sword wielding horse-riding Sikhs, and Hindus, including Avtar, many are slaughtered, but some do manage to escape. Muslims, in turn, kill all Hindus, Sikhs and Christian passengers on a train en-route to India. While Gian, who refuses to participate in any killing, is picking up wood for his ... Written by
Here's an oddball mix: A Canadian film dealing with a Sikh-Muslim love story set against the partition of India in 1947, with Kristin Kreuk playing the lead Muslim girl (Naseem), Neve Campbell playing a British Indian, and everyone from the villagers to the city folk, despite being mostly uneducated - speaking English of various accent!!! The director (himself of Kashmiri descent) has SOME gall, I must say.
The camera loves Kreuk, as it should, and surprisingly enough, she gets the physical nuances right. Campbell also gives one of her more subtle performances, but the standout here is Jimi Mistry as the Sikh ex-soldier. The central love story is nothing new (the film seems like a different handling of the loud, crude, jingoistic, and ultimately inferior Indian film Gadar), and no aspect of it covers any new ground. There are some moments of poignancy and warmth, but the director moves the story along with broad strokes, instead of letting it flow and fleshing out the surrounding events. As it stands, it is all quite predictable, and some of the dialogue is atrocious. Many characters (notably Naseem's family) come across as shallow and are simply used as stereotypes, so there goes any complexity that might have been developed.
There are some beautiful shots throughout, and thankfully there are no musical interludes (which would have been likely if the film had been made in Bollywood). The child actor was also good, and I wish we could have seen more of Irrfan Khan than the bit part he plays. The scene where Naseem dances in the rain with only a shirt on, is pure fantasy on the director's part, and nobody kissed that openly back in the 40s and 50s, even married couples. A reality check was in order, Mr. Sarin.
Still, despite the hodge-podge of ideas and unrealistic scenes, the film is watchable, and even moving at times. But it could easily have been much better, and the backdrop of cultural conflict deserves a more in-depth, intelligent handling.
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