Directed by: Kamal Hassan
Starring: Kamal Hassan, Rani Mukherjee,
Shah Rukh Khan, Om Puri,
Saurabh Shukla, Atul Kulkarni,
Vikram Gokhale, Sowcar Janaki,
Vasundhara Das, Hema Malini,
Girish Karnad, Naseeruddin Shah,
When the British left India after more than a century and a half of governing the nation, they left behind a fractured nation, weakly emerging from the privations of being ruled by foreigners, and bled dry from centuries of commercial exploitation. They also left us with a parting gift, a wound that still lies festering under our collective consciousness. In keeping with the 'Divide and Rule' policy they had followed while ruling their erstwhile colony (which, to be fair, they had forged into a nation state from disparate princely states), they split a vast nation into two bleeding halves before leaving – 'Hindu'-India and 'Muslim'-Pakistan.
The mass migration of people during this period was the largest the modern world had ever seen. Millions of people were displaced from their homes; not all of them who were displaced chose to be so. As Hindus braved their way across the newly-drawn borders into the safe haven that was India, similar caravans of Muslims made their tortuous way towards the new 'Muslim' nation, one that they hoped, believed, would give them a place they could call home.
This momentous event would result in scenes of extreme violence and cruelty. Generations of communities that had peacefully co-existed for centuries would rise up in arms against friends and neighbours. Sectarian violence became the order of the day. Scenes of carnage became common, the scale of which was unprecedented, and the consequences calamitous.
As nationalist leaders unsuccessfully tried to stem the tide of events, there were also people who stoked the embers, keeping alive the flame of enmity. No community was safe; no community was innocent. Massacres became common as mob frenzy took over, stoked by rumours of atrocities committed on their community by the 'other'. Men and children were murdered; women were abducted, raped, forcibly converted. Buses and trains were set on fire – with people inside. Hundreds of thousands lost their lives.
The Partition shaped the destiny of two nations – India and Pakistan. Since that date, more than seven decades ago, the erstwhile one-nation has been deeply polarised. The wounds lie deep, and fester, continuing to wreak havoc in both countries.