Pinjar (Pinjar:  Beyond Boundaries) (2003) 

 

 

 

Director:     .

Starring:     Urmila Matondkar (Puro / Hamida), Manoj Bajpayee (Rashid), Sanjay Suri (Ramchand), Sandali Sinha (Lajjo), Priyanshu Chatterjee (Trilok), Isha Koppikar (Rajjo), Lillete Dubey (Mrs. Mohanlal), Kulbhushan Kharbanda (Mohanlal, Puro's dad), Farida Jalal (Mrs. Shyamlal), Alok Nath (Shyamlal, Ramchand's dad), Seema Biswas (Mad woman), Sudha Shivpuri, Dina Pathak (Rahim's aunt), Samar Jai Singh, Adil Rana.

the partition of India of 1947 as seen especially in the state of Punjab 

 

 

Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.

August 1946.  "It happened in 1946.  The cruel monsoon was creating havoc.  The country's emotional cord was on the verge of being divided.  In the embers lay hidden the sparks.  If the nation was already on fire somewhere it was on the verge of being set afire elsewhere.  Punjab was not untouched either.  That was just the beginning of the partition of the country."

Religious violence breaks out in Punjab.  People in the street are being stabbed or slashed with swords.  "Innocent children who had not even learnt their alphabets were thrust into the fire of anger and hatred.  But like a flowing river, life too finds its own course.  This is one such story.  Only the names of the protagonists in this story are make-believe.  As for the rest, it's the naked truth."

September 1946. A family is having a photo taken at a photography studio.  The son Trilok has not yet arrived and father is getting impatient.  For the second photo Trilok scoots into the photo. 

At home father asks mother to ask if Trilok has the time to attend his sister's wedding?  On the roof of the house sister Kooggi (aka Puro) teases her brother about getting him in more trouble with their father. 

Father is downtown.  He tells his friend that after many years he is going to visit his village.  Chattoani is his ancestral town.  Apparently, the family is going to Chattoani to check out the boy their daughter is supposed to marry.  Dad says that this time he will finalize Puro's marriage.

Trilok seeks out Kooggi to ask a favor of her. He wants her to get some money for him from their father.  Kooggi  gets quite a bit of money out of father and now she teases Trilok saying she will spend it all on herself.  

Three of the women wait in the car for Puro and father.  Mother tells Rajjo to go call them.  So Rajjo reaches over the front seat to honk the car horn.  Trilok has to stay home to take his final exams at college.  Father tells him not to be late for the wedding.  Dad gives him some more money. 

The prospective groom's name is Ramchand and he lives in Rathoval.  His family has vast tracts of land and a big house complete with electricity.   

Father goes with his brother to Rathoval by car.  Brother asks Mohan if he has seen Mahatma Gandhi?  No, Mohan knows that Mahatmaji is a top leader of Congress.  And the entire nation is behind him. 

The two brothers arrive and sit with Ramchand's father.  The men talk about a possible partition of India.  Ramchand comes in and his father introduces him to Puro's father.  Dad brags that Ramchand has an appointment from Lahore College, but he insists on teaching here.  Mohan asks Ramchand what is he doing these days?  Translating Valmiki's 'Ramayan' into Urdu. 

Mohan tells the family that he likes Ramchand whose father tells Mohan that they have a exchange ceremony wherein Mohan's daughter comes to their house, and their daughter goes to Mohan's house.  It seems that Ramchand's father has a daughter that he is thinking of linking her up with Mohan's son, who is studying law.  The father wants to make a double deal with Mohan.  If Mohan will let their younger daughter marry their son, then Puro can have Ramchand.  Mohan says he likes the idea. 

Puro is running through a large field trailing her chunari (scarf) behind her trying to air dry the scarf.  A young man is trying to pass all the women in front of him.  He passes all of them, but as he comes near Puro she loses control of her scarf and the bicyclist's face gets covered up by it.  He falls off his bike.  The fellow seems bedazzled by the looks of Puro.  He keeps thinking about her. 

Tara gives birth to a baby boy. 

The women running with Puro see that Ramchand is coming this way on his bicycle.  Puro gets a brief look at him. 

The guy on the bicycle now follows Puro's sister.  The guy looks a bit creepy and he keeps staring at the sister.  Puro has a nightmare about being chased by the strange bicyclist.

The stranger's names is Rashid and he is Muslim. 

Mother tells Puro to got to the field to get some spices for the rice.  Puro is a bit scared to go alone, so she asks Rajjo to come with her.  On their way back from the fields, Puro walks fast and keeps looking behind herself to see if anyone is following them.  And sure enough her comes the creep Rashid on a horse.  He swoops up Puro and rides away with her.  There's nothing Rajjo can do to stop the man.  She runs home to tell her parents that Puro has been kidnapped on the way back from the fields.  Mother begs her husband to go and find Puro and bring her back. 

Puro finds herself locked in the stranger's house.  She bangs on the door and cries to be let out. 

Father is going to the police station.  There is a knock at the door.  A strange man tells father:  "If you want the well being of your daughter, come with me."  Father goes with the man (named Aslam) to see the father of the kidnapper.  The man speaks up and says:  "Sahuji!  A year-old score has been settled, with interest."  It would be best if father does not go to the police.  Otherwise, his family will tell everybody.  The vengeful fellow tells Aslam and another man to throw Mohan out.  Dad pleads with the man saying he will do anything to get his daughter back. 

Dad returns home and tells the women that Puro is dead.  The women cry.

The kidnapper tries to awaken Puro. 

Trilok travels on top of a bus to get to the family and the wedding.  Rajjo has to tell him that their sister was kidnapped.  Trilok tells the family he is going to the police station.  The family tells him that he can't do that.  Once the wedding ritual begins, the wedding cannot be stopped or delayed.  The family may have to marry Rajjo to the groom.  Trilok says he can't understand his family.  They have to go to the police.  Dad says something shocking:  "Puro is dead for us.  Even if found, who will marry her? . . . The one whose daughter is kidnapped, loses all dignity and self-respect.  If she does not get married today, the entire society will ostracize us."

Dad goes on to say:  "If we suppress this now, it will remain suppressed."  He will tell people that Puro has got cholera and has been sent to Lahore for treatment. 

Trilok says he cannot agree with what father is saying.  He will find Puro.  Dad says if Trilok tries this, he will kill himself.  Mother begs her son to support his father.  Stay calm and let this crisis blow over.  Now dad begs his son to save his honor.  Trilok starts weeping and drops to his knees and grabbing his father by the waist. 

Rashid tries to free Puro, but she won't eat anything.  She asks him his name and then asks why was she kidnapped?  Rashid says he will tell her that later.  Looking shamed, Rashid leaves the room.

The wedding ceremonies start.  There is a lot of singing and dancing.

Trilok goes to speak with Ramchand's sister, Lajo.  She speaks a little too candidly to Trilok, so the women in the house shout down to Lajo that this man is her Trilok.  She gets really embarrassed and runs out of the room.  Ramchand comes over to speak with Trilok.   

Rashid comes to visit Puro.  He asks her why does she torture herself?  She must eat something.  Rashid is going to force himself on Puro and she begs him not to do it.  She says he must have a mother or sisters.  Rashid becomes angry, but releases his grip on her and she bolts for her bed. 

Mohan tells Ramchand's father whatever lie he is going to tell him.  The man says he will discuss the matter with Ramchand and his mother.  Ramchand does not want to marry Rajjo instead of Puro.  It would make things way to awkward for all the parties involved.  He then suggests that Rajjo marry his cousin Kirpal who is about the same age.  So the two families meet together and the proposal on the table is that Kirpal marry Rajjo.  The other part of the deal is that Trilok will marry Lajo.  Mohan agrees to the arrangement. 

Trilok goes to the police station.  He gets no cooperation from the police and leaves in disgust. 

Mohan learns that his son went to the police station. 

Rashid comes in and throws a wedding dress down on Puro's bed.  He tells her to wear it tomorrow for the priest will come to marry them.  She begs him to have mercy on her and she wants to know the reason why Rashid is doing this to her?  He tells her that something bad happened between their two families, but he won't tell her what because it will only make it worse for her.  "What had to happen has happened."  Puro still demands to know.  Rashid says his Sheikh family and her Shah family have been enemies from the time of their forefathers.  Her grandfather constantly raised the interests rates on his grandfather's house and then took the house by a court order and displaced the Sheikh clan. Her grandfather's elder son kept his grandfather's daughter for three nights in his house by force.   His grandfather made Rashid's father swear that they would take revenge on the Shah family.  His father and uncle demanded that he kidnap Puro. 

Rashid also tells Puro that he fell in love with her the first time he laid eyes on her.  Puro covers her ears with her hands after hearing that revelation.  She asks what part in this injustice did she play?  It's not her fault.  Rashid evades the question and says he will shower her with comforts.  Puro wants to go see her mother.  Rashid tells her:  "No Muslim from their clan will even touch the water of the Shah family."  She says she has had no sexual contact with Rashid, but Rashid says that no one is going to believe that story.  And, he, as a gentleman, will marry her before touching her.  Puro sobs and sobs. 

Dad complains to Trilok about going to the police station.  He then says Lajo's brother is coming to take Trilok and Lajo and from there they will proceed to Amritsar. 

Rashid tells Puro that after six months with him, he will take her to her native village.  At night Rashid sleeps in the bed in the next room.  Puro grabs the keys and lets herself out.  She reaches the place where her family is staying and bangs on the door until they let her in. 

Dad tells Puro that in a short while the Sheikh's men will come here and kill everyone in the house.  Puro begs dad to take her to Amritsar.   He asks:  "Where will I keep you?  Who will marry you?"  So Puro tells them to kill her.  Mom tells her to go away from here now.  Do us this favor. 

Puro has no choice but to go.  She walks down to the well to throw herself in.  But Rashid is there.  He tells her that he told her this would happen.  Now in a trance, Puro walks away with Rashid as her only option. 

The next day the wedding ceremony for Puro and Rashid takes place.  She says yes and is married. 

Mohan returns from a visit to the police station.  He had to give the police money to destroy Trilok's complaint. 

Rashid says to Puro that they will shift to Sakkadali village, which is far away from here.  He tells her to pack.  And he brings her good news.  Her parents have safely reached Amritsar. 

Rashid's family tells Rashid to tattoo Puro's new name Hamida on her forearm.  When Puro hears this it's as if she had been stabbed by a knife.  But what can she do? 

Trilok continues searching for Puro. 

Puro tries to rub her tattoo off her forearm.  It won't go away.

Rajjo's marriage is going poorly.  Trilok's marriage is going poorly.  But at least Lajo is supportive of her husband trying to find his sister Puro.  She even says that Trilok can kidnap his sister to get her back.

Trilok is heavy into independence for Indian politics.  A friend of his says that he heard from Delhi that every "area committee" member has been asked to be on guard for incidents of violence between Hindus and Muslims. 

A speaker for Indian independence says that if the British government chooses to partition India into Muslim and Hindu parts then the entire nation must go to jail against this move. 

Rashid says he has noticed that his wife can't sleep at night and has lost her appetite.  He asks her why is she punishing him?  She asks him:  ". . . what good have you done for me?"

Puro learns that she is four months pregnant.  Rashid is happy about the pregnancy.  He asks Puro what does she think?  She replies bitterly:  "I am carrying the burden of your sin for the last four months."  This hits Rashid below the belt.

Puro starts bleeding from somewhere in her reproductive organs.  She lays down on her bed. 

Puro is having her baby or a miscarriage.  It turns out that it's a miscarriage.  Rashid goes in to see her.  He has tears in his eyes.  She turns her head slightly way from him. 

Rajjo finally gives her brother some information about Puro.  "That night a Muslim had come to our house.  I don't know him, but I have seen him in a group of Muslims of our village."

One day when Puro is working in the fields, she hears a baby crying.  She searches for the baby and finds the village's "mad girl" dead, but the baby is alive.  She rushes over to get Rashid.  They go back to the field and pick up the baby.  This act causes some religious arguments between Muslims and Hindus.  Some say it was a Hindu boy, but now the boy will be forced to be a Muslim.  They are thinking of taking the baby and have a woman named Mary raise the child.  They will take up a donation to pay Mary for her troubles.

Rashid tells his wife about the disquiet among the Hindus.  Puro says she's had the baby now for six months.  Why do the Hindus ask for the baby now instead of asking right from the time they found the baby? 

A man comes to the gate of the compound telling Rashid that the village chief wants to see him.  Rashid sits down across from the village chief.  There are four more men at the meeting.  The question they have is:  is Rashid is going to give the baby back or not?  Rashid answer that the baby is God's gift so who is he to give it away?  The problem for the other men is that the mother of the child was a Hindu woman and they can't tolerate this situation.  Rashid asks why do they come to him now and ask about the baby?  His wife has been caring for the child for six months.  Now the village comes forward after the baby is saved? 

The men say that this is not a personal matter, but a religious matter. [What it is, truly, is a matter of religious bigotry.]  The men say that Rashid is endangering his own life over this matter.  The village will not take any responsibility if Rashid is harmed.  They also say that the village will pay him some money for the six months of care Rashid provided for the baby.  They are sending a woman with two men to collect the child.  So, Rashid asks for mercy, especially for his wife, who has cared for the baby as if it were her own child.  But bigots don't believe in mercy.  It's do it their way or you get hurt.  They basically are threatening Rashid.  Rashid has to give in or else.

Rashid comes to the house with the woman and two men.  Poor Puro tries to hold onto the child, but the woman forcefully takes the child away from her.  And once again Puro is left crying over another big loss in her life. 

Puro's family gets a letter from Rajjo's husband saying that Rajjo is pregnant.  Father tells Trilok to go to Rathoval and bring Rajjo.  Lajo will stay in Rathoval a few days.

Rashid's mother asks if Puro will go with her sister when she goes for an extender period for an eye treatment?  She mentions that there is a nearby village called Rathoval.  Puro says she will go. 

Trilok hasn't given up on Puro.  He checks with the Gursher Singh District Magistrate at Amritsar.

Puro arrives at the doctor's place.  He says that the woman patient must stay for thirteen days of treatment.   Meanwhile, Puro dreams of being reunited with Ramchand.  The woman encourages Puro to take a little tour of the village. Puro does walk around the village and the agricultural fields.

A man gives Trilok some information about his missing sister.  He says a man named Rashid Sheikh has disappeared from Chattoani.

The eye treatment is almost over.  Puro is upset because she thought she might run into Ramchand at least once.  When walking in the fields she breaks down and cries.  An older man comes by and inquires if she is alright.  She asks who is the owner of the field and the man tells her it's Ramchand and the man is right over there.  Puro looks and sees Ramchand.  She starts crying again.  Ramchand notices her and starts walking over to her.  He doesn't know who she is and asks if he can help her.  Puro runs off crying through the fields. 

Puro is taken back home.  Along the way, unknowingly Trilok in his jeep passes by Puro's buggy.  Lajo is with him.  They arrive at the home of Trilok's parents.  Lajo rushes in to say hello to her brother Ramchand, who is still a bachelor. 

Playing cards with the family, Ramchand says the woman he saw out in the field was probably Puro.  He says he called out to her, but she ran away. 

At night Trilok starts a fire to burn Rashid's fields in Chattoani. 

Aslam comes to see Rashid to tell him about the terrible fire in his fields.  The entire crop is destroyed.   Rashid tells Puro and then tells her that he is going to Chattoani.      

In his jeep, Trilok and Lajo pass by the bus taking Rashid and Aslam to Chattoani.  When Rashid arrives at his fields he breaks down and cries, saying he is ruined.  His father comes to try to comfort him.  A policeman is there investigating the fire and he asks Rashid if he has any enemies?  Rashid says no. 

At home Rashid's family thinks that the enemy is Puro's brother Trilok.  Rashid says he has no proof.  The family wants Rashid to at least file a complaint with the police so they can be alert for more trouble.  Rashid shocks the family by saying what would they have done to the person who stole their sister from them?  He goes on to say he committed a sin and now he is enduring his punishment.  Rashid starts crying and walks away. 

Rashid arrives back home.  He says nothing to Puro.  So Puro has to ask him if they found out who burnt the fields?  No, says Rashid. 

At night in bed Rashid tells Puro that the villagers suspect that it was Trilok who burned the fields.  Puro cries saying someone in the family thinks of her, but this is the result  --  the loss of their crop.  Didn't brother ever think what the effect would be on her?  Rashid is very compassionate these days and says that her brother still loves Puro and he must be going through a great deal of agony to cause him to burn down a harvest crop.  And now Puro hopes her brother doesn't get arrested.  She wishes that she could see his face one more time. 

1947.  A group of Muslims tells Rashid that people are stock-piling and sharpening weapons.  Rashid must do the same. 

And now the religious bigotry killings start in India and Pakistan.  It will end with one million dead. 

Puro asks her husband what is happening?  Rashid says our country has been divided.  And what country are they in now?, asks Puro.  They are in Pakistan.  And the Hindus in Pakistan will now have to leave and go to India. 

Puro's father tells the family that they are going to India.  Ramchand's father says:  "I will not allow the common kitchen of Hindus and Muslims to be broken." 

Hindu refugees start leaving Pakistan.  Muslim refugees start leaving India.  Hindu buses are attacked and the passengers killed.  The Muslims race after Ramchand to kill him.  He is able to make it back home where he tells everyone to pack up immediately and go.  In the house there is only his mother and his sister Lajo.  The Hindus are saved by the arrival of the Punjab Boundary Police. 

The Hindus are in a long line of refugees and now the line is attacked by marauding Muslims.  The Muslims commit crimes against humanity in the very name of Allah.  The police are able to shoot some of the criminals, but many Hindus are struck down by the swords of the Muslims.  Ramchand is knocked to the ground during the melee.  Some men grab Lajo and run away with her. 

Puro finds a Hindu hiding in the fields and she brings her to her home.   The woman speaks of the Muslims raping thousands of Hindu women.  She herself was raped by different men on nine different nights before she got away from them. 

Muslims come to Rashid asking if there are any girls of the infidels around the village?  Rashid tells them no. 

Puro sees the Hindu refugees coming through the area.  She asks a policeman where are these people coming from?  Rathoval. 

At night Puro dreams of meeting Ramchand among the refugees.  The villagers are making money selling goods at very high prices to the refugees.  Puro gives free water to the refugees.  And now she meets up with Ramchand.  The police are coming by and she doesn't want to be detained by them, so she has to leave.

Puro returns to the refugee night camp so her Hindu "guest" can go with them to India.  She takes the girl to Ramchand.  He asks her if she is Puro?  Puro replies:  "You still want to ask?"  She tells Ramchand she is leaving this poor girl in his care.  But then she asks about her family.  Ramchand explains to her that after her disappearance, Rajjo married his cousin and Trilok married Lajo.  Puro says that her sister Rajjo must be in this caravan.  Ramchand says no, because Trilok left Lajo with Ramnchand and took Rajjo back home for a visit.  And now his sister Lajo has been kidnapped.  He asks Puro to be on the lookout for Lajo.  Puro tells him to write to her and include his address.  She will write him if she learns anything about Lajo.  Puro, starting to cry, now leaves the caravan. 

Wagha Border Camp, India.  Rajjo is about to have a baby.  Her mother and father are with her.  Trilok and Ramchand's cousin now find Ramchand. 

Puro begs her husband to find Lajo.  Rashid does ask her if she saw Ramchand?  Yes.  Nevertheless, Rashid says he will do his best to find Lajo and maybe that will redeem him of his sins. 

Rashid goes around listening to conversations dealing with Muslim and Hindu girls in the wrong country.  He goes back and tells Puro that he is sure that Lajo is in Rathoval.  It maybe that the man who kidnapped Lajo has also taken her house.  So Puro and Rashid  go to live for awhile where his aunt had her eyes treated for thirteen days. Puro goes around Rathoval pretending to be selling bed sheets door to door.  In talking to people she learns about possible Hindus in Ramchand's house.

Puro goes back to Ramchand's house, where they told her to go away.  This time she is much more assertive and comes into the home.  There she asks for a glass of water.  Puro hopes it will be Lajo bringing out the glass of water.  And it is Lajo that comes with the water.  She looks very depressed.  Puro says she wants to check the woman's pulse because she looks so pale.  This gives her a chance to look at her forearm.  There she finds the tattoo Lajo.  Now she knows this is her sister-in-law.  Lajo is a bit bewildered at the behavior of the saleswoman.  Puro says she will come back with a magic band that will cure the woman of what ails her. She leaves.

Puro comes back the next morning  The woman is not at home, but Lajo is.  Puro identifies herself and the women hug each other. Lajo wants to escape immediately, but Puro says she has to know when does Lajo go outside the house?  Lajo answers that she can only come out with Amma.  So Puro tells her to sneak out of the house tonight and go to the well.  There her husband will swoop her up onto his horse.  At the well they will wait for Lajo to appear for three straight nights. 

At night Lajo sneaks out of the house and makes her way down to the well.   She meets Rashid and off they go. 

Puro goes back to Ramchand's house so that Amma will not suspect of her having helped steal Lajo away from them.  Her son comes in and asks who is this woman?  He has never seen her before.  Is she Hindu?  Puro has to think fast.  So she shows them the Hamida tattoo on her left forearm.  They let her go.  For the first time, she thanks God for that tattoo. 

The two women are reunited in Rashid's home.  They cry and hug each other.  The women exchange news about the family and what happened to the various members.  Puro cries because she says no one in her family remembered her.  Lajo says her mother cries a lot for Puro.  And her father also misses her. 

Lajo tells Puro that she and her are in the same boat.  No one from their families will now accept them.   Puro says the atmosphere in India has changed because so many families are missing their relatives due to the partition of India. 

Rashid listens to everything the women say.  He is a bit encouraged when Puro says some nice words about him to Lajo.  Puro also stresses how could she have saved Lajo without the help of Rashi?  Lajo asks if Puro loves Ramchand?  Puro decides not to answer the question. 

Ramlchand and Rashid meet together in the woods outside the village.  They talk.

Rashid comes back home.  He calls for the two women.  He tells Lajo to sit beside him.  Rashid tells Lajo that today Ramchand came with some Indian and Pakistani soldiers.  Lajo asks if Ramchand has come for her?  Rashid says, of course, what else would he be coming here for?  Brother says her people will accept her with grace and dignity.  Lajo and Puro are so relieved.  So the plan is that Rashid will take Lajo to Lahore and Ramchand will be there.  And Puro's brother Trilok will be there to greet his sister.

Lahore 1948.  The four brothers and sisters meet again with a great deal of crying.  Puro tells her brother to never treat Lajo badly, not even unwittingly.  Ramchand goes over to thank Rashid, who then asks to be forgiven for his sin.  The two men hug. 

Trilok tells Puro she can come home.  Ramchand will marry her and she can start life over.  Rashid starts walking away.  Puro shakes her head no.  She turns her head to look for Rashid.  She panics and starts yelling for Rashid.  Crying while running, she finds Rashid.  She tells him:  "For me this is my home, Rashid."  

Puro's three relatives jump on the truck taking them to India.  Puro (Hamida) and Rashid stay behind in Pakistan. 

 

One may call someone kept inside a cage "Pinjar".  And that's what one may call the Indian women caught up in a world of prejudice and discrimination against women.  The situations for the women and their families are just horrible.  Two women are kidnapped through no fault of their own and yet they are to be treated as non-entities by their families and society because of this.  It's just totally unfair by the more enlightened standards of the 21st century.  There were lots of different types of bigotry in India of the 1940's religious bigotry and sexual bigotry, especially.  Much of the movie is very sad because of the injustices, but, to encourage the possible audience, it has a relatively happy ending.  I enjoyed the movie. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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