Films that show the dark side of the freedom struggle

Independence Day and Partition: Films that portray the dark side of the freedom struggle

A still from the film Garm Hava.

On August 15, 1947, India celebrated independence from the British and marked the birth of a new nation from the ruins of colonialism.

Seventy-three years later, we celebrate the nation's progress in various areas, from economic prosperity to advancements in science and technology.

However, August 15 is also reminiscent of our shared history with Pakistan and the gruesome horror of Partition that followed.

Here are some of films that depict the other side of the freedom struggle: the painful remnants of loss, separation and violence.

1947 Earth (1998)

Like every story concerning India-Pakistan partition, religious emotions are the crux of the conflict between characters. In Deepa Mehta's 1947 Earth (1998), set in pre-partition Lahore, a young girl narrates a story of love and friendship divided by faiths. The Amir Khan-lead film was also nominated for an Oscar. Based on Bapsi Sidhwa's novel, "Cracking India", the film is a poignant drama about partition and the impact it had on the innocent people whosuffered.


Garm Hava (1973)

With Balraj Sahni in the lead, Garm Hava is a timeless classic and a case study into the lives of Indian Muslims. Directed by MS Sathyu, the film is a story of a Muslim family in India, who chose to stay back in the country after the partition. The film is not merely a partition story but a comment on various other factors that were part of newly independent India, such as livelihoods, economic prosperity, and social anxieties of being a minority in a country. It is a reminder of the experience and exercise of Muslim identity in India -- which continues to remain relevant after seventy-three long years.


Subarnarekha (1965)

Bengali film director Ritvik Ghatak chronicled the aftermath of partition and migration struggle in one of the world's greatest cinema classics, Subarnarekha (1965). In the film, he explores the struggles of migration and livelihood dilemmas which were an immediate effect of the partition. The film is a visual example of how among all the complexities of our country like caste and religion, the migrant struggle is ubiquitous across our history but has only been exhumed when deemed necessary. 


Dharmputra (1961)

In Dharmaputra (1961), directed by Yash Chopra, a Muslim mother leaves her son behind after a split at the refugee camp following the India-Pakistan partition. Years later, the infant grows into a man, played by Shashi Kapoor, of Hindu fundamentalism. Much like other partition tales, religious sentiments form the core of the narrative here. The film is worth considering to decipher how much of partition, at the dawn of Indian independence, is representative of the nation's communal conflicts over the years.


Chhalia (1960)

With Raj Kapoor and Nutan in the lead, Chhalia (1960), directed by Manmohan Das, is a story of longing and abandonment. Shanti, played by Nutan, is left in Lahore and her newly-wed husband has to move to Delhi following the partition. With great difficulty, Shanti returns to her husband after several years. However, things have changed and soon Shanti is left stranded with a child until when Chhalia, Raj Kappor, comes in. The couple is reunited but through the story, Das, also the maker of secularist films like Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977), leaves a note of hope for the unification of the two nations. A hope not based on reconciliation but through a blind faith in a classic Bollywood-like human spirit.