Banners: Pathé, BBC Films, Bend
It Films, 20th Century Fox, Reliance
Producers: Paul Mayeda Berges,
Gurinder Chadha, Deepak Nayar
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian
Anderson, Huma Qureshi, Om Puri,
Manish Dayal, Arunoday Singh
Writers: Gurinder Chadha, Paul
Mayeda Berges, Moira Buffini
Music: AR Rahman
For a filmmaker who claims to have had access to top-secret documents that reveal a diabolical political agenda behind the brutal and bloody partition of India, Gurinder Chadha has presented a rather tepid film.
If only Chadha had transferred some of her pathos to the big screen and blended it with hard-hitting realism, her latest offering, Partition: 1947, could have been a riveting film that offered a new perspective on one of the darkest chapters in Indian history.
Thus, the biggest villains in this period drama are not the men who played political roulette while plotting the partition of India, but lazy writing – the film has been written by Chadha herself, her husband Paul Mayeda Berges and Moira Buffini – lethargic pace and average dialogue.
Partition: 1947 focuses on how the last Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville), came to India with his wife Lady Edwina Mountbatten (Gillian Anderson), to help the country keep its peace while forming its own government, after three hundred years of being ruled by the English. Thanks to the tug-of-war between politicians in India and in Britain, Mountbatten is eventually convinced that the only option was to split India into two separate nations.
In the midst of this, a love story plays out between Mountbatten’s squire, a Hindu boy, Jeet Kumar (Manish Dayal), and his daughter’s assistant, a Muslim girl, Aalia Noor (Huma Qureshi). The two were previously acquainted and rekindle their romance when they meet again at the Viceroy’s house. Hoping that the freedom of their country will bring them together.
But the conflict between the religions runs very deep. While Jeet tries to convince Aalia to stay in India with her father Ali Rahim Noor (Om Puri), her fiancé Asif (Arunoday Singh), the one chosen by her father, wants her to move to Pakistan. The love story plot starts to create intrigue in the beginning but soon loses its grip.
Meanwhile, political machinations intensify as Partition approaches, and the movie proceeds to show us a version of the wheeling and dealing that went on between the founding fathers of India and Pakistan. Chadha takes us back in time on a journey that shows us how these central characters plot and plan one of the most defining periods in Indian history.
While it is intriguing for many to see this other side of Partition, the movie lack in execution. The biggest flaw in direction are extended scenes with flat dialogues that dilute the significance of the story, turning it into a boring history lesson from our school days.
The film was originally made in English as Viceroy’s House and now released in Hindi as Partition: 1947. But the Hindi voiceover is ineffective and waters down the original version.
The music of the film, while unable to lift the story, is very moving. The melody by A R Rahman is very touching, especially in the final number Do dilon ke. And making an appearance after a long time is musician, Hans Raj Hans, who had us foot-tapping when he sang his rendition of Dumadum mast kalandar.
Performance-wise, Hugh Bonneville is more than competent while bringing Mountbatten’s part to life but the Hindi translation of his dialogue is a disappointment. Gillian Anderson, who plays Lady Edwina Mountbatten and has many credible performances to her name, lives up to her reputation as a good actress this time too. Huma Qureshi is excellent but Manish Dayal as Jeet Kumar doesn’t come through on the potential he hinted at in the film The Hundred-Foot Journey. Late actor Om Puri made sure his last performance was a noteworthy one in this film. Tanveer Ghani as Jawaharlal Nehru and Denzel Smith as Muhammad Ali Jinnah have successfully adapted to their characters on the big screen. A special round of applause for Neeraj Kabi, who is unrecognisable but amazing, as Mahatma Gandhi.
Verdict: Partition: 1947 has a good story to tell but is unable to flip the patriotic switch in the writing and execution department. Dud.