Partition of Indian & Pakistan in the year of 1947 is the only devastating event in Indian History which affected all the facets of Social Science – History, Civics, Geography & Economics. And movies being a potent medium to convey the social plight, few movie makers have successfully portrayed them over celluloid too. Some are the adaptation from Novels where protagonist’s life seems to be majorly impacted by aftermath and some taking Partition itself as a central theme with everyone playing their role.
Populated here is the list of films which are based on or inspired from the same tragedy which shook the nation and left it bifurcated followed by a blood bath. Most of the Films can be categorized as fictitious tales whose story revolves around the days before and after the mayhem.
Real in Reels – Separation of a Nation
1. Chhalia (1960)
Director : Manmohan Desai
Cast : Raj Kapoor, Nutan, Pran, Rehman
Loosely based on the work of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, this comes out to be a typical Raj Kapoor movie where he sports his signature image of innocent yet happy-go-lucky-guy. After coming to the city and coping with mundane, he falls in love with Shanti (Nutan) but latter on learns that she is married and separated. Chhalia (Raj Kapoor) now does it all to re-unite the family who also bore the brunt of partition. The story is rather poignant than tragic and doesn’t try to convey it as a political event.
2. Dharmputra (1961)
Director : Yash Chopra
Cast : Shashi Kapoor, Rehman, Manmohan Krishna, Mala Sinha
Second movie from Yash Chopra as a Director comes out to be very thought provoking and packs the dogma which is very relevant even today. The story deals with pre and post independence era where a Muslim mother had to leave her son behind to the refuge of Hindu family friends owing to social constraints (unmarried mother at the time of birth and a marriage thereafter). She latter on comes back only to find that her son has become a Fascist & Extremists with anti-Muslim principles. And the things turns up to become worse after partition leading Dilip (Shashi Kapoor as the Son) to further follow the path of destruction and communal rage. Truth finally surfaces up about the parentage bringing up the twist and further dilemma. Now its before Husn Bano (Mala Sinha) & Dilip to call for a truce with other entities being entangled too.
3. Garm Hava (1973)
Director : M S Sathyu
Cast : Balraj Sahni, Farooq Shaikh, Geeta Siddharth
The movie was put on hold initially for nearly around 8 months with Central Board of India fearing the communal unrest. The first of its kind (based on Partition) when art cinema was just catching up in Bollywood. With Balraj Sahni in the lead role, it was rest assured that the movie will meet full justice when it came to acting skills. Garm Hava (English title – Scorching Winds) is a post partition movie where a family is in perplexed situation to leave the country or not. A victim of ‘left alone’ situation, Salim Mirza (Balraj Sahni) finds himself in deep dilemma to migrate to newly formed state giving up his ancestral business. The movie deals with the plight of a Muslim family afflicted by partition.
4. Sardar (1993)
Director : Ketan Mehta
Cast : Paresh Rawal, Annu Kapoor, Benjamin Gilani, Tom Alter
The reason why I’ve included a biopic of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is that the political career of Iron Man witnesses some major chaos during the days of partition and was a key figure deciding Nation’s fate. Erroneously criticized for biased views against Muslims with favoritism to Hindus , the movie depicts woes of the national leader while maintaining it all for the sake of Divided States of India. Since Patel was very instrumental in the unification of princely states and de-fragmentation after partition, this is a thought provoking cinema with a brief insight to India’s situation back then in late 40s.
5. 1947 Earth (1998)
Director : Deepa Mehta
Cast : Aamir Khan, Rahul Khanna, Maiya Sethna, Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das
Straight out of Deepa Mehta’s trilogy of three elements, 1947 Earth features the religious and political uproar during the partition of India and Pakistan. A story of one time good friends (admirers when adult) Shanta (Nandita Das), Dil Navaz (Aamir Khan) & Hassan (Rahul Khanna) who find themselves on the losing edge with faith succumbing to national tragedy. A highly acclaimed work of Deepa Mehta is internationally acknowledged with critiques speaking volumes of it.
6. Train To Pakistan (1998)
Director : Pamela Rooks
Cast : Nirmal Pande, Mohan Agashe, Rajit Kapoor, Divya Dutta, Smriti Mishra
A lesser known movie of a greater known novel, Train to Pakistan is Khushwant Singh’s literary milestone. With Partition and subsiquent migration as the central theme, the movie also takes a love story of Jagga (Nirmal Pandey) and Noorah (Smriti Mishra) into the account. A story of a small village in Punjab where both Sikhs (Majority) and Muslims lives in harmony until disturbed by the gory act & brutal killing of refugees from Pakistan. With peace set on turmoil, the movie deals with the hapless situation of those who lived by then.
7. Hey Ram (2000)
Director : Kamal Hassan
Cast : Kamal Hassan, Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Vasundhara Das
Hey Ram is a semi-fictitious movie which ran into controversy shares the reminiscence of an archaeologist during his last moments with partition in background. Being narrative in nature, the movie comprises of flashbacks where Saket Ram (Kamal Hassan) loses it all in the hands of a barbaric Muslim gang. And in fit of rage, he too gets into killing and finally decides to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi after being provoked by yet another Hindu extremist. But after having some eye-opening experiences, he finally gives up the path of violence and surrenders to the truth.
8. Gadar – Ek Prem Katha (2001)
Director : Anil Sharma
Cast : Sunny Deol, Amisha Patel, Amrish Puri
Apart from its ‘historical scene’ of hand-pump being uprooted for self defense and handling hundreds of men at one go, Gadar qualifies to be a mainstream entertainment cinema. I’ve tagged it as ‘entertainment’ cinema because of stereotyped Bollywood bash followed by latka-jhatakas and other outlandish shots minus preaching. Gadar is a love story of Tara Singh (Sunny Deol) & Sakina (Amisha Patel) who belongs to different communities. Rescued by frenzy mob during riots, Sakina finds shelter with Tara Singh and they eventually falls in love with each other. But as the fate would have it, Sakina, who belongs to rich royals is forcibly separated from Tara Singh whose odds were law. And rest of the story deals with bringing Sakina back home combating the conflict that prevails due to Partition.
9. Pinjar (2003)
Director : Chandra Prakash Dwivedi
Cast : Urmila Matondkar, Manoj Bajpai, Kulbhushan Kharbanda
Adapted from Amrita Pritam‘s Punjabi Novel with the same name, Pinjar, a period movie accounts a tragic love story of Puro/Hamida (Urmila Matondkar) who falls prey of a communal vengeance. I personally count this to be the most underrated movie which deserved more accolades to Chandra Prakash Dwivedi (the Chanakya fame). Though film begins with typical Bollywood’s extravaganza, but catches momentum gradually and becomes potent enough to keep the viewers spellbound till climax. Separated by her family after abduction for revenge, Puro finally ends up accepting her fate with Rashid (Manoj Bajpai) by helping her family getting reunited after partition and riots. Be it direction, script, acting and filming – the movie Pinjar does it all flawlessly.
10. Tamas – TV Mini Series (1987)
Director : Govind Nihlani
Cast : Om Puri, Amrish Puri, A K Hangal, Deepa Sahi, Dina Pathak
Though a TV Series, but worth the inclusion as because of its authoritative treatment which may surpass several cinematic delights. A television version of Bhisham Sahni‘s Hindi novel Tamas (Darkness) passionately portrays the predicament of people hailing from all communities in the backdrop of partition. It summarizes the social discomfort and the infliction that the writer himself observed during the riots that broke after the fateful event of division. The telefilm made quite a wave in late 80s for its message and vivid portrayal of the characters in distress.
With above movies delving into every aspect of the Partition, I’m looking forward for one of a kind which delineates the Political and lesser known facts of the division. I’d very much appreciate film makers reeling Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru, Mountbatten & other key figures confronting and trying or preventing the Partition of India and Pakistan (documentary cinema).
Over to you !
If you think that there are more praiseworthy movies with partition of India and Pakistan as the main plot in Bollywood which I might have missed, enlighten me in the comments please !