Movies Based on Partition of India & Pakistan

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.

Movies Depicting the Partition – an Event Which Haunts Even Today

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)

chhalia 1960
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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

Tamas (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 !


  1. Divya Kumar Oct 29, 2011 at 7:27 am

    There was a serial also, Buniyaad…

    1. Amit Oct 29, 2011 at 7:34 am

      Well, this was basically a round-up of Movies based on the topic and I’ve included Tamas as an exception because it was few minute shy to 5 hours. Buniyad too is very nostalgic and commendable but falls into a full blown Soap (or serial) category. Tamas comes somewhere between the two.

  2. Bal K. Gupta Nov 10, 2011 at 2:49 am

    There was one movie named Lahore starring Nargis, Karan Deewan and Om Parkash in 1949 or 1950. It was a story of a Hindu girl (played by Nargis) kidnapped in Lahore during 1947.

    There was also another movie named Nastik, starring Nalini Jaywant and Ajit.

    Also another movie: Khamosh Pani starriing Kiron Kher

    (Ref my book “Forgotten atrocities: Memoirs of a survivor of 1947 partition of India” availble on )

    1. Amit Nov 10, 2011 at 5:40 am

      Thank you Sir for bringing them into my notice which I missed !!!

      I actually wanted to make a roundup of 10 movies that created a stir. I deliberately dropped Khamosh Pani because I found it to be more of a mother-son woes (or maybe I mistook it with wrong perspective). Your suggestion is highly regarded and I’m making it prominent by getting them in bold font.

      As for that book, I’m on my way to get them procured …

      1. Bal K. Gupta Nov 10, 2011 at 6:20 pm


        Thanks for your prompt action. Nastik was also about a kidnapped Hindu girl during 1947.

        If you like, you can include 3 English movies “Nine Hours to Rama”, “Gandhi” and “Freedom at Midnight” which were made in Hollywood (USA) and Europe. I saw these movies about 30-40 years ago and they also depict partition graphically. There is also one Canadain movie “Partition” about the same subject, which I have not seen.

        Bal K. Gupta

        1. Amit Nov 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm

          Great Inputs coming in !!!

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but “Nine Hours to Rama” is all about Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination as the central theme with Partition being one of the the fueling medium for Nathuram Godse. “Gandhi”, if you mean the one by Ben Kingsley, Partition again is shown prior to Movie’s climax only, but not as a major theme. And “Freedom at Midnight”, I never knew if any movie was made over it – did you mean the book by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre with the same name?

        2. Bal K. Gupta Nov 10, 2011 at 10:08 pm


          You are right about “Nine Hours to Rama” and “Gandhi”.

          However, about “Freedom at Midnight” I am not sure whether it was a TV documentary or name was different. It was a long time ago. For the benefit of doubt, please delete it.

          However, Canadian movie “Partition” is a recent one is about Partition of India and is listed on Google search.

        3. Amit Nov 11, 2011 at 3:55 am

          I’m searching for the movies that I missed. Your comments has been very important which enriched the whole compilation. Thanks again !!!

  3. Naresh Feb 24, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    The best film according to me has been this , sadly it is not available easily now :

    You can’t beat Manto, Chugtai, Amrita, Rajinder Singh Bedi’s etc on partition. These people have experienced the holocaust first hand.

    1. Amit Feb 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Thank you Sir for this !

      Will be compiling yet another list once I gather the significant number of movies that I missed to include. In my maiden article, I was more interested in mentioning Indian film makers only. Would be subsequently covering world movies one the topic and one from that side of the border too.

  4. Biri Apr 17, 2013 at 1:06 am

    One More movie based on the real incident “Shaheed-e-mohabbat Boota Singh

  5. Malahat Jahan Apr 15, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Partition (2007, English) one of the bezt movies on India Pakistan partition.

  6. Bal K. Gupta Aug 11, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Amit, It is good to know that you are a Ph.D student at my Alma Mater Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi University. You may . You may upgrade your list by including some recently released movies on Partitione.g. Shahed-e Mohabbat, Boota Singh; Bhag Milkha Bhag (Farhan Akhtar); Dangerous Ishq (Karishma Kapoor); 1947 Partition (2017, Gurinder Chaddha, UK), Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) and Punjabi movie Lakeer (based on partition of Kashmir), Candian movie Partition (Jimmy Mistry, Canada, 2007). Did Veer Savarkar (like Sardar) also have partition in its background? TV series Tamas, Lajwanti also based on Partition. Was a TV series Buniyad or Humlog based on Partiion?

    1. Kumar Amit Aug 11, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      THanks a lot for these value additions Sir. Will certainly update the article with newer inputs!

  7. Bal K. Gupta Aug 11, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    Amit, You may post your article on the website of “www.1947partition”. This is Berkley (USA) based organization and have interviewed over 3500 survivors of Partition. They have offices in USA, India (Delhi, Kolkatta), Pakistan (Lahore, Karachi) and Bangladesh (Dhaka). At present Ira Bhaskar is showing some of the movies in JNU, listed by you. They interviewed me in USA and my story number is 828.

  8. Tita Anntares Mar 22, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    What about a movie made in the 50s called something like “Last Train to ___” (or maybe ‘from’)?

  9. Helen Mukherjee Aug 21, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Dear Amit,
    I was looking for films on Partitions. Then I came across this site.Though I was born after 11 years of partitions & I am not a history student but recently I became very interested in the freedom struggle after visiting Andamans cellular jail. It was a pathetic experience & I understood how privileged we are who are born in independent India.
    My mother’s family came from East Pakistan in 1949 leaving almost everything. They were three brothers & three sisters. They came with their widow mother & uncle & aunt who were childless. They ,nine altogether, lived in a rented one room in Kolkata at Park circus. My father’said family also came from Dharma though my grandfather was a district & session judge in undivided Bega. So they were more well off than my mother’said family.
    Thanks for compiling all the films. I will have a picture of partition seeing these movies.

    1. Kumar Amit Aug 21, 2018 at 6:56 pm

      Thank you Ma’m for stopping by my blog and pouring in the valuable input. More than glad to come across people voicing their emotion for what happened in those days which changed the fate of both the country for always.

    2. shivangi Aug 30, 2018 at 11:05 am

      maam if you read this message, pls do reply I am from the partition museum and would love to interview your family.

  10. kiran Aug 29, 2019 at 9:40 am

    Hi Amit,
    There was a movie I saw as a child and I have no idea what the name was. It was a black and white film about Muslim and Hindu neighbours who were like family. Then partition happened and a wall was built between the two houses.
    That’s all I remember about it but I do remember weeping, it was really sad and moving.
    Does anyone have any idea about it….?


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *