Partition (2007)




Director:     Vic Sarin. 

Starring:     Jimi Mistry (Gian Singh / Mohammad Hassan), Kristin Kreuk (Naseem Khan), Neve Campbell (Margaret Stilwell), John Light (Walter Hankins), Irrfan Khan (Avtar Singh), Madhur Jaffrey (Shanti Singh), Arya Babbar (Akbar Khan), Lushin Dubey (Mumtaz Khan), Chenier Hundal (Zakir Khan), Jesse Moss (Andrew Stilwell), Jaden Rain (Vijay G. Singh).

partition of India, 1947


Spoiler Warning:


"In 1947 India was granted independence from colonial rule ending nearly 350 years of British presence on the sub-continent.  In an attempt to avert civil strife, India was partitioned into two nations, Islamic Pakistan and secular India.  More than 14 million people were displaced in a migration of Muslims to Pakistan and Sikhs and Hindus to India.  Ancient animosities resurfaced and over 1 million died in the resulting chaos and violence."

"Leave India to God.  If that is too much, then leave her to anarchy."  Mahatma Gandhi.


Delhi Polo Club 1941, Delhi, India.  Margaret Stillwell is watching a polo match, in which her brother Andrew Stilwell is playing.  A friend, Walter Hankins, comes over and surprises her.  After the greeting they ask each other about their fathers.  Walter's father, says Walter, is still trying to crush the Indian Independence Movement.  Margaret says her father is still rotting in his damp mausoleum. 

After the match, Margaret and Walter go out to congratulate Andrew. Andrew gets a note saying that his regiment is being called up.  They will be heading to Burma to fight the Japanese in WWII. 

Margaret and Walter are at the train station to see Andrew off with his two Sikh friends, Gian Singh & Avtar Singh, also in the army. 

Five years later, 1946.  A piece of graffiti is scrawled on a red brick wall:  "Quit India."  One of Andrew's Sikh friends, Gian Singh, pays Margaret a visit to give her some of Andrew's personal possessions.  Margaret says that Walter wrote a nice article in the paper about Andrew the war hero mourned by the Sikhs.  The Sikh also tells Margaret that her brother told him to tell his sister that she should go back home to England.  Margaret, however, does not want to go back to England.  The Sikh tells her that things are changing here in India.  She asks him if he is staying in the army.  No, he is leaving for his village in the state of Punjab.  He leaves but then realizes that he still has Andrew's whistle in his pocket.  He goes back to the door, but he hears Margaret sobbing.  So he sticks the whistle back in his pocket and leaves

1947 Punjab, India.  [Punjab is in northwest India on the border of Pakistan.]  There is a long line of Muslim refugees migrating to Pakistan.  Up on a hill Avtar Singh watches the long line go by. 

Sikhs on horseback from the area descend on some of the refugees and hack them down with their swords.  One of the Sikhs is determined to kill a pretty Muslim woman.  Her brother intervenes and fights with the Sikh assassin.  The assassin is about to kill the brother, so the father jumps in between the two fighters and gets stabbed by the Sikh, who then spits on the ground.  The mother and another son come over to stand in shock as they watch the dying father. 

Avtar comes to visit Gian.  He complains that Gian did not do his share.  Gian responds:  "My share?  Of what, Avtar?  Killing innocent people?"  Avtar asserts:  "They got what they deserve.  There's no compromise for me." 

Gian goes to the massacre sight and is repulsed by the whole thing.  He takes a walk into the woods by the dirt road and finds hiding there the daughter of the father who was knifed to death.  He brings her out from the hiding place and she starts hitting him.  Gian tells her that he is not going to hurt her.  She calms down a bit.  He notices some of his neighbors talking in the shade of the woods and he tells the woman that he must come with him.  He puts his army jacket on her and ties up her hair the way some of the Sikh men do. 

Gian walks the woman to his home and lets her inside the wall.  He sees Avtar watching him and smiles at him as if nothing unusual is going on.  At home Gian prepares some food for the young woman, but right now she's in no mood to eat.  Gian sets off for the market place.  He talks with one of the vendors who asks him about the recent killings.  Gian just ignores the man.

Avtar and some of his men ride up to Gian.  They say he must go with them to see a train that just arrived from Pakistan. 

The train drips blood because it is filled with massacred Indians.  Even the roofs on the train cars are covered with the dead.  Avtar tells Gian to join them, but Gian says he cannot.  He walks alongside the train looking at the dead bodies everywhere. 

Gian goes back home.  His mother is there and she tells him that everyone in a family they know was butchered on the train coming from Pakistan.  She says she hates the Muslims.  Gian urges his mother to go and comfort her closest friend over the loss of her family.  Mother goes.

Now Gian finds the Muslim woman who is gasping for breathe after having hid in an old chest so the mother would not see her.  She cries and says she would like to see her mother, her family. 

New Delhi, India.  Margaret listens to the news on the radio.  The rioting and looting has gotten worse.  In Pujab thousands of refugees from both sides have been slaughtered.  The government in New Delhi is unable to offer any immediate help.  Margaret gets out her map of India to look at the Punjab area.  She is very distressed by the news. 

Punjab.  Gian walks the woman to the hill overlooking the refugee path.  There are no refugees.  Gian apologizes and says the refugees must have changed their path to Pakistan.  He says he's sorry.  She says she is not going back to his place.  She is going to walk to Pakistan.  Gian tells her that Pakistan is in the opposite direction.  The woman gives up and decides to go back with the man.  Now Gian asks her name.  It's Naseem Khan.  He tells her his name. 

Gian tells Naseem that he must go work in his fields.  If people don't see him there, they will start to ask questions.  He asks her to please put out the fire after he leaves the house. 

But the fire continues going while Gian is in the fields.  The man who killed Naseem's father notices that Gian is in the field, while smoke rises from his house.  He goes to check on what's going on. The woman has fallen asleep and the fire has gotten bigger. 

Gian notices that people are running in the direction of his house.  He becomes very worried and runs for his house.

A big crowd is standing outside of the wall gate.  Avtar tells the people to break the door down.  All of a sudden, the door opens and Gian is standing right there.  Avtar asks:  "Where is the Muslim woman?"  Gian says this is a young girl who is not responsible for anyone's death.  The crowd asks how can he provide shelter for a Muslim when the Muslims are killing their people?  Gian repeats that the girl hasn't killed anyone.  Avtar tells Gian to get out of the way and he will get the girl.  Gian tells him quietly but firmly that if he comes in, one of them will die. Avtar tells Gian to bring the girl out to them.

Naseem is hearing all this and she grabs a pistol.  When Gian comes to her she asks him to kill her with the pistol.  She begs him to kill her.  Gian won't do it.  He looks for a small bag and finds it.  He tells Naseem there is still hope and she has to trust him. 

The little bag contains all of Gian's savings.  He offers the money to the victims of the massacres saying he hopes it will be of some help to them.  Avtar extends his hand out to take the bag.  The vendor grabs the bag and looks inside.  He says there are over 500 rupees in the bag.  And he asks the crowd for more donations of money.  Gian thanks Avtar, who can't understand why Gian is doing this for some Muslim girl. 

Gian has a flashback to the war.  Andrew is in a trench which is being hit hard by bullets and shells.  He starts to panic and climbs up the ladder to get out of the trench.  But a shell explodes and the shock wave throws him back into the water-filled trench.  Another shell hits right outside the trench and the falling timbers trap Andrew in the trench. 

Naseem tells Gian that he could have been killed today.  And he gave the people a lot of money. He tells her that she should sleep. 

New Delhi.  Gian pays another visit to Margaret.  She tells him she has been so worried about him because of all the massacres in Punjab. They have dinner together.  Gian tells her all about his troubles back home.  As far as Naseem is concerned, the government may have records of those people from New Delhi who left to go to Pakistan.  Maybe she can find a relative of Naseem, but that might take a miracle.

Punjab.  Gian's mother has made a suit of clothes for Naseem as her son asked her to.  But she comes into the little compound and drops them on the ground in front of Naseem.   Naseem is taken aback by this sign of hostility.   Mother also complains that her son doesn't want a woman who cleans his house.  He doesn't like people touching his belongings.  At this moment, Gian arrives back home.  He picks up the new clothes off the ground and thanks his mother for making them.  Mother is not happy.  She leaves. 

Gian is going to get some water from the well.  Naseem tells him she will go get the water.  He thinks that's too dangerous, but she tells him that everyone knows she is here anyway.  And when he was in New Delhi, she was all alone by herself and no one bothered her.  Gian relents and Naseem goes to the well.  A woman who lost a relative in the massacres tells Naseem to go to Pakistan and get her water.  This time mother intervenes to help Naseem.  The other woman gets mad and leaves the well area.  Mother turns and goes back home.  A young woman falls by the well and Naseem helps her up.  When she finishes she sees Gian watching her.  She smiles at him. 

With time Naseem becomes friends with the young woman she helped at the well.  She brings lunch out to Gian while he works in the field. 

New Delhi.  Margaret goes into the office to complain that her friend Gian has not had any response from the government about the young Muslim girl's possible relatives in Pakistan.  The boss just patronizes her and has no real interest in helping a Muslim girl.  

Punjab.  People in the streets celebrate Holi, the Festival of Colors, a popular springtime festival observed on the last full moon of the lunar month where participants traditionally throw bright, vibrant powders at friends and strangers alike, celebrating the arrival of Spring and giving people a chance to drop their inhibitions and play and dance.  Naseem and her friend have fun with the festival.  Her friend has to leave her for awhile.   While she waits, her father's killer sneaks up behind her and grabs her.  She tries to fight him off.  Gian comes up behind the killer and takes him down.  He starts to choke the man to death until Avtar tells him that that's enough.  Naseem goes home.  Avtar tells Gian that nobody will hurt Naseem again. 

Naseem washes the red colors off her face, neck and hands.  At night she has a nightmare and cries.  Gian comes to comfort her.  He tells her that she is safe with him.  She grabs hold of his hand and won't let him go. 

In the morning he sees Naseem letting the rain drench her body.  He watches her intently as she twirls around and around. 

Gian receives a letter from Margaret and he lets Naseem read it to him.  Margaret she is expecting an answer soon from the officials.  And she thanks him again for looking out for her brother Andrew.  At the mention of Andrew, Gian has another flashback.  Andrew is trapped in the trench so he blows his whistle.  Gian hears it and runs over to the trench.  He and Avtar start lifting off a big piece of timber holding Andrew down.  The water is pouring into the trench and it's a real possibility that Andrew might drown.  There's no way the men can get Andrew out and he will drown soon.  Gian takes out his pistol and shoots Andrew in the head.  At that time he takes Andrew's whistle. 

Naseem asks who is this Andrew?  He tells her and then says he promised Margaret that he would protect her brother.  Andrew was drowning and he had to shoot him.  Naseem starts kissing him and he responds in kind. 

The two of them have fallen in love.  A marriage ceremony is held according to Hindu ritual.  Mother and Avtar attend as well as most of the village.  They have a baby boy.  The family is very happy together. 

New Delhi.  Walter Hankins tells Margaret that his paper is sending him to cover stories in Lahore, Pakistan which is not that far from Punjab.  Margaret says that her job is sending her for two weeks to Lahore as a translator.  As she leaves, she says:  "Until Lahore."

Punjab.  Margaret arrives at Gian's house.  She is a bit confused because she does not know that Gian has married Naseem and the little boy is their son.  She asks where is the Muslim girl and Naseem has to tell her that she is the Muslim girl. Margaret hesitates a bit, but then says she has news of Naseem's family.  They live very close to Lahore.  And she has Naseem's travel papers.  Naseem starts crying over the good news. 

Gian walks Margaret to her train.  There he gives her Andrew's whistle saying he should not have kept it. 

Naseem says goodbye to her son and husband.  She tells him she will write to him as soon as she arrives. 

Kasur, Pakistan.  Naseem is reunited with her brothers.  She does not know that her father is dead.  Her brothers have to tell her.  She cries.  She tells her brothers that she has a family in India:  a son and a husband.  Now mother comes out of the house to greet her daughter. 

Gian and his son Vijay wait for Naseem to get off the bus, but she is not even on the bus.  They are both upset. 

Naseem is really angry at her family in Kasur.  She wants to go back home now, but they are trying to prevent that from happening.  She says about her husband:  "He saved my life."

Naseem starts packing, but now brother says she's not going.  He adds:  "You will not betray us, Naseem."  Then he closes the doors to the room she is staying in.  They lock Naseem in the room.  She cries. 

Gian and Vijay leave on a journey to New Delhi.  They go there to get a passport to Pakistan.  The news they get is that only Muslims are allowed in Pakistan.  Gian will have to have his wife go through the proper channels in Pakistan to get her sponsorship papers.  Now if Gian were Muslim, he could just walk into Pakistan. 

So Gian and Vijay go to a mosque.  From now on Gian's name will be Mohammad Hassan.

At the border, they do not let Gian and Vijay into Pakistan.  Gian has to get other, proper papers from the High Commission. 

Gian and Vijay are going to sneak under the barbed wire into Pakistan.  They go to Lahore, Pakistan.  There they go to the Royal Hotel that is owned by Walter Hankins.  Walter is there, but he doesn't recognize Gian and Gian decides not to tell him. 

Naseem begs her mother to let her go back to India to be with her husband and son.  Her mother gets indignant and says about Gian:  "The man is a Sikh."

Walter figures it out and knocks on Gian's door.  The two men embrace.  Margaret is still staying at the Royal Hotel and Gian waits for her to return.  She is shocked to see him wearing a Muslim hat.  So he sits her down and tells her what has happened. He then asks her if she will watch Vijay.  Margaret says yes, but reminds him of the dangers facing him if he is caught.  On a bike, Gian sets out for Kasur. 

Naseem gets to come out of her room to sit with her family.  Out a window she sees and recognizes Gian.  Her eldest brother fights to keep the two people apart from each other.  The younger son comes out and drags Naseem back into the house.  Meanwhile, Gian is getting beat up and kicked repeatedly by the older brother.   Margaret has followed Gian to Kasur and she hears the ruckus and runs toward the house.  She tells the brother to leave that man alone.  A policeman arrives.  Gian says he is a Muslim and his name is Mohammed Hassan.  The brothers say he is a Sikh and has come to steal their sister. 

He tells his story to everyone there, which includes a large crowd now.  He admits he was born a Sikh and as a soldier he has killed many men.  But when he came home he wanted peace and all around him there was nothing but hate and violence.  He wanted no part of it, but what really saved him was when he saved Naseem.  "Your sister gave me back my life.  She made me want to live again."  The policeman asks if the brother is going to let his sister go with this man?   The answer is no.  Naseem hears this and starts crying again.  The policeman will take Gian to Lahore. 

Walter comes to see Gian.  He says the authorities will release Gian if he and his son go back to India.  Gian says not without Vijay's mother. 

Naseem's mother hands some money to her and tells her that this should help her get out of Pakistan.  She says when Vijay is older tell him that you too once had a mother who loved you.  Naseem is crying again.  Early the next morning she leaves her mother's house.

Walter, Margaret, Vijay and Gian ride in a buggy to get two train  tickets to India. 

Naseem's brothers are chasing after their sister. 

Naseem arrives at the train station and she finds Vijay, Walter and Margaret.   Gian is busy getting some candy for Vijay.  Gian sees Naseem and calls out for her.  And here comes older brother to cause more problems.  Gian holds back the brother, but he fights so hard to get out of Gian's grasp that Gian falls onto the railroad tracks and is killed by the moving locomotive.  The brother is grabbed forcefully to be taken to talk to the police.  Naseem sobs.

Now here comes the other brother.    Margaret tells Naseem to get on the train fast.  The two women and the one boy get away from the religious bigots as the train pulls out of the station. 

Naseem and Vijay now live in England with Margaret.  She says:  "Gian's love gave me the strength to start a new life.  He lives on in all that I am  --  that we are."


Good move.  Religion is okay, but religious bigotry is not.  It helped kill one million people in India and Pakistan in the great Partition of old India into three parts. How can human beings call themselves religious if they are religious bigots?  I don't think they can.  Religious bigots are often religious fanatics and are so hateful that they are ugly and despicable.  That's what the scenes of religious violence were:  ugly and despicable.  Some day the world will be more peaceful  because bigotry and hate have been mostly vanquished, but not yet  --  not today.  Beautiful love story in the film where love conquers hate and bigotry between a Muslim and a Sikh. 

Jimi Mistry (as Gian Singh / Mohammad Hassan) and Kristin Kreuk (as Naseem Khan) were great as the two lovers.  I felt bad for Kristin Kreuk who had to play a lot of crying scenes. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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