The Britishers left India in 1947. The dawn of August 14, 1947 saw the creation of Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim nation; and the midnight of August 15, 1947 welcomed the birth of a new nation, India. What shortly followed these two events is a sad tale of inhumanity, violence and atrocity for millions of displaced people.
Millions of Hindus and Sikhs left Pakistan for India while the similar number of Muslims left India for Pakistan. It brought one of the largest exodus of people at the border of these two new nations. The bureaucrats and leaders of both the nation were jubilant and busy drafting new constitution, while fewer officials were left to dealt with the issue of the mass movement of mankind. Amidst this, quarrels broke out. People from both the sides had scores to settle, and what better than reprimanding the new moving migrants.
1-2 million people lost their lives, and many were left displaced. Most of the affected included women and children. Many women faced sexual atrocities.
1947: Earth which was released in 1998 dealt with the issue of 47’s partition and what followed shortly after with a semi-fictional account including four different lives.
Hindustan had become free. Pakistan had become independent soon after its inception but man was still salve in both these countries –slave of prejudice…slave of religious fanaticism…slave of barbarity and inhumanity. ~Saadat Hasan Manto
Based on Bapsi Sidhwa‘s novel Cracking India, 1947: Earth explores the life of the greater inhabitants of Lahore during 1947’s partition. Entirely presented from the perspective of an 8 year old home-schooled Parsi girl, the films unravels the incidents in a small town during the partition.
It is one of Deepa Mehta’s three films which made into the Elements Trilogy. Her adaptation of the story by Sidhwa is to showcase the darker side of the modern civilization. Although, set in a small town in Lahore, the events of the film were similar in nature to other parts of India where violence engulfed the humanity.
Religious fanaticism and communal regression brings about the large change in the landscape of Punjab region. The partition divides the region into two, where West Punjab remains in Pakistan with its 100,000 Hindu and Sikh population. Most of these inhabitants are forced to leave the city and migrate to India.
In one scene, Shanta and Lenny baby attend a local wedding. It turns out that a young teenager is getting married to an Septuagenarian, because the bride’s family couldn’t find any other suitable and rich groom. Communal unrest is one part of the film, while social injustice is another.
A once suave, reasonable and delectable man, Dil Nawaz turns into a war-mongering person. Grown with an astute belief of non-violence, love, cooperation and joy, Nawaz shines as a messiah till the first half of the movie. He fashions a smokey mascara, Soorma, and dons a Taqiyah.
The rejection from Shanta coupled with wrongful events later changes Dil Nawaz’s pespective. He turns bitter against Shanta and his non-Muslim counterparts. He assists in finding and killing them.
Aamir Khan as Dil Nawaz shines throughout the film. His wit charms you for the first half, however his vile side dejects you in the second half. His deafening muteness and prolonging stares could send a shiver down your throat.
Lenny Sethna or Lenny baby is a polio stricken 8 years old Parsi girl living with her parents in Lahore at the time of partition. Her life is mostly spent with her Hindu nanny Shanta (Nandita Das), Dil Nawaz and Hassan. Despite the peaceful household, the issue of partition is brawling in the background.
In span of few months, Britishers leave the subcontinent creating two new nations. Being a predominantly Muslim region, many Hindus and Sikhs consider moving to India. Those who decide to stay behind are being brutalized vehemently. Dil Nawaz proposes to marry Shanta, however, Shanta is head over heels for Hassan. This leaves Dil Nawaz heartbroken.
In one incident, Dil Nawaz is anxiously waiting at the train station for his sisters to arrive from the Gurdaspur, India. When the train finally arrives, he sees that the entire passengers are massacred, and his sisters brutally raped and killed. This leave Dil Nawaz in a state of emotional turmoil. In fit of rage, he turns against his Hindu & Sikh friends and compatriots. .
Lenny baby is still young to make anything of the events. Even when Shanta is taken away by the mobs, she couldn’t make anything of her’s fate.
1947: Earth (1998)
Directed by Deepa Mehta, Written by Deepa Mehta and Bapsi Sidhwa, Produced by Anne Mason and Deepa Mehta, Starring: Aamir Khan, Nandita Das, Rahul Khanna, Maia Sethna and others