Friday, July 01, 2011

1947 Earth

Director: Deepa Mehta
Language: Hindi
The second film in Deepa Mehta's Elements trilogy, 1947 (the other two being Fire and Water), Earth is based on Bapsi Sidhwa's novel, Ice Candy Man. The movie vividly captures the bestial violence that erupted during the Partition as witnessed by an eight year old polio-afflicted Parsi girl who lives in Lahore, Pakistan.
Lenny (Maia Sethna) is privy to the budding romance between her Ayah, Shanta (Nandita Das) and a masseur, Hasan (Rahul Khanna). Lenny is also aware that Dil Nawaz (Aamir Khan), the smooth-talking Ice Candy Man, has a growing obsession with Shanta. Lenny and the Ice Candy Man become unwilling voyeurs to this unfolding love story.
As the dark clouds of the Partition gather, the animal in each man, like the lion that Lenny fears, is unleashed. Dil Nawaz proposes marriage to Shanta and says in a sombre foreshadowing, that it is only she who can keep his inner animal in check.
In a scene that best captures the horrific violence during the Partition, Dil Nawaz awaits the arrival of a train from Gurdaspur carrying his sisters. The train finally arrives twelve hours later laden with mutilated bodies of passengers.
Dil Nawaz eavesdrops on a conversation between Shanta and Hasan, where the masseur shares his plans to flee to Amritsar in India. The next day, Hasan's body is found in a gunny sack. Lenny is deceived by Dil Nawaz into revealing Shanta's whereabouts and along with a group of marauders, he abducts Shanta. Unlike the novel, the movie offers no explanation about Shanta's fate and it is presumed Lenny lives with the guilt of having sealed the fate of her Ayah.
The end titles of the movie capture the immensity of the Partition, that divided India and Pakistan - “Over one million people were killed in India's division. Seven million Muslims and five million Hindus and Sikhs were uprooted in the largest and most terrible exchange of population in history.” 

An edited version appeared in Culturama's July 2011 Issue. 
Pic from the Hamilton Mehta Production website. 

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