Sunday, May 20, 2007
'Pinjar' is an unflinching look at the partition of India through the eyes of one woman. Urmila Mantondkar gives an amazing performance as Puro, the daughter of a wealthy landowner whose life is completely changed by a centuries old family feud. It explores the issues of Partition as well as the the status that women occupied in Indian society then and to an extent even today. Manoj Bajpai also turns in a career defining performance as Rasheed and gives incredible depth to a character who has committed a grievous sin but manages to atone for it in the end. It is one of those acting feats that I always marvel at - playing a character who is not entirely good nor entirely bad - a difficult balancing act of portraying someone who walks the fine line between both. I just don't understand why Urmila doesn't appear in more movies - she looks as luminous as the day her career was launched in 'Rangeela' 12 years ago but it is her acting is what gives this movie it's soul.
The partition of India & Pakistan has been a particular passion of mine for many years as the human drama behind it is as fascinating as it is tragic. The consequences of Partition are something neither country has fully recovered from nor properly dealt with to this day. I have recommended this book in a prior post, Freedom At Midnight. It is must reading for anyone of Indian descent or anyone interested in the history of the subcontinent for that matter. The book was written by two French authors and will give you a real understanding of how and why Partition came to be. It explains that both Jinnah & Gandhi (although he bitterly opposed the idea until his death) believed that Partition would serve to solve many of India's problems and were horrified at the carnage that ensued. It also explains how a British lawyer named Cyril Radcliffe (who knew little about India and could thus stay 'unbiased') was given the duty to divide up the country into India & Pakistan just 36 days before August 15, 1947 - the date of independence. It was a date cursed by the stars according to the astrologers and led to horrific atrocities including looting, rape, murder and resulted in the single largest migration in the history of the world. How to divide the libraries of the bisected states of Punjab & Bengal is just one of the fascinating stories in this book, now out of print but easily available at Amazon.
The song from the movie is Charkha Chalati Maa sung by Preeti Uttam. It visits a theme seen previously in films like 'Umraoo Jaan', basically that it is a curse to be born a woman on this earth. Which begs the question, who would all these wonderful sons of our world be marrying if there were no women around? What happens to Puro is tragic and infuriating at the same time, society is coming around and changing but recent events tell us that women's rights in that part of the world still have a long way to go.