1950 Amritsar born ( now Canada based ) Deepa Mehta is in her element in this film. The partition of India and the ensuing butcheries on both sides of the border must have been collective memories not far removed from her own life in terms of space and time. These events, though not personally experienced or witnessed by me, or even my immediate family, are part of the family lore, and evoke feelings of nostalgia and deja vu, of self recognition and home-coming. Although the movie is filmed in Delhi. the aromas of Lahore and the feel of the different stages of that crowded period of history are portrayed with an authenticity of near first hand experience. The director's cultural antecedents as an Amritsari lend it the force of cultural specificity, in terms of nuances of speech inflection ( she has not failed to insert some judiciously selected gems from this region known for it's ferocity of invective ), body language and environmental cues. The communal frenzy is glimpsed through the sensitivity of a polio afflicted pubescent Parsi girl. If not cinema of a high order it has the merit of passion and a touch of the autobiographical. Unlike the more recent Water, this is authentic stuff, for all it's no doubt unavoidable catering to various segments of the audience, like the rather non-descript songs and the gratuitous sexuality. Maia Sethna as the Parsi teenager gives a quiet and sensitive performance. Nandita Das is a born actress, and bold enough to take on and breathe the fire of youthful energy into a challenging and unconventional role. Aamir Khan is spot-on with his trademark charisma and box office credentials.
Certainly the best depiction of those times on the screen which I have seen, notches better than Kamal Hassan's bloodthirstier He Ram and even the parts of Attenborough's Gandhi relating to these events.
Review: Stephen Holden