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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
Purists who were up in arms about Chinese actresses playing Japanese characters like in Memoirs of the Geisha will probably flip again at the portrayals of Indians by non-Indian actors, and could cite again similar examples whether the country of origin lacked capable actors to pull the roles off (Of course not, this is Bollywood we're talking about, certainly no lack of actors). But hey, this is a Canadian production, and those detractors were likely to have some axe to grind with Hollywood-ized versions of such movies, leaving this movie alone. Or maybe the subject matter explored here outweighed such negative, meaningless, counterproductive thoughts and arguments.
Journeying back to the time of the British withdrawal from India, one of the policies introduced during the independence, is this little handiwork done by the British, which had the population at the time segregate themselves into Hindu India, and Muslim Pakistan. This led to migration of scores of people to either side of the partitioning, and with it came religious tensions, and mindless massacres from both sides. This movie through its narrative was no holds barred on this criticism, even though it too boiled down to misunderstandings and intolerance from both groups of people.
Partition is a movie that I recommend, even though it's draped with heavy melodrama. Perhaps it's because it's a Romeo and Juliet type of story, with our protagonists not from feuding families, but from different religions. Gian Singh (Jimi Mistry) is an ex-soldier serving in the British army, and in his retirement from war, he returns to his village to seek a certain peace from within, after making a decision during the war which he has yet come to terms with. One day, he rescues Naseem Khan (Kristin Kreuk) from a massacre by the Sikhs on the Muslims who were en route to Pakistan, and shields her from his fellow men when they bayed for her blood.
As you might have guessed, the two will fall in love amid the background of violence, and their love will transcend religion, culture, and intolerance. Or will it? There are two acts in this movie, which I thought the second was somewhat hastened, given the idyllic pace which the first had dwelled in, sharing its rich cinematography by writer-director Vic Sarin. The story's development too moved into its fastest gear, especially in the finale which was what one would expect, and yes there were sniffles amongst the audience. What I thought was treaded quite superficially (and I suppose it was perhaps on purpose) was the dealing of religion, that it can be flipped flopped so easily. Perhaps herein laid a message that love will transcend that as well, given that after all, God is also about love?
Like how The Namesake made me sit up and take notice of Kal Penn, Partition had the same effect for Jimi Mistry. Best known for his comedic The Guru role in which he plays a "sexpert", he's almost unrecognizable under that thick beard, and gave a very strong performance as a man haunted by his past, and finding a future with a loved one, willing to make extreme sacrifices for his family. Kristin Kreuk, in her second movie outing after her bimbotic role in Eurotrip, brings a more Smallville's Lana Lang-ish appeal to her character here, as she pines for the loves of her life, and lets those tears roll. No, she doesn't look a bit like your typical Pakistani girl, but yes, her beauty helps illuminate the screen. It's strange though to see her try her best to put on a believable accent, and mannerisms right down to head movements, but she looks good in those saris!
I was surprised to see Irfan Khan in a bit role here, having enjoyed his performance also in The Namesake, and Neve Campbell and John Light rounded up the supporting roles, with Neve's Margaret Stilwell a character whom I thought was a tragic one, no doubt if you interpreted as her still holding onto the candle for Gian, without him realizing, probably consciously aware that their status and skin colour are too different to have resulted in anything fruitful.
With a one track beautiful theme song, lush sceneries, and wonderful performances, Partition is a surprise of the week, and over here, it's two screen release doesn't do it much justice. Should you want to watch a love story set against a historical background which still has repercussions until this very day, then make it a point not to miss this.
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