Partition, a new film by Canadian director Vic Sarin is part history lesson, part love story. Sarin, who was born in Kashmir, has made a movie set in post 1947 India after the country won its freedom from colonial rule after nearly 350 years of British presence. India was split into two countries divided on the basis of religion: Pakistan was made an Islamic state and India a secular state. The division led to violence between Muslims and Sikhs and that is the backdrop of this movie.
Sarin has taken a huge historical event—the Partition and it’s violent aftermath—and turned it into a human story, concentrating on two young people from either side of the ideological fence who fall in love.
Gian, played by Jimi Mistry, is a Sikh who rescues a Muslim woman from certain death at the hands of his friends and neighbors. His experience as a soldier has made him weary of violence, and he refuses to allow any harm to come to her. Soon, they fall in love, have a baby and she is accepted by his community. When she discovers that some members of her family survived the massacre that led her to Gian, she travels to Pakistan to see them and tell them of her new life. The partition, which brought the couple together, will now keep them apart.
Sarin’s updated Romeo and Juliet story is beautiful to look at—he is an accomplished cinematographer as well as director—brimming with period details and skillfully shot set pieces. The story of Gian and Naseem is nicely crafted, perhaps to the expense of some of the heftier concepts in the story. There are many big—and timely—ideas here, such as the role religion has played in creating unrest in the world, but Sarin doesn’t fully explore them, choosing instead to concentrate on the ill-fated love tale. If Sarin had broadened the narrative Partition could have been the epic movie the story seems to be crying out for.
Jimi Mistry, best known for comedic roles in films like The Guru and Touch of Pink, convincingly plays a man tormented by his violent past. As Naseem doe-eyed Canadian actor Kristen Kreuk has good chemistry with Mistry and pulls off the transformation from frightened refugee to wife and mother.
Partition is an interesting take on the Romeo and Juliet story, but doesn’t delve as deep as I would have liked.