C 13 — Movie Review : The Day India Burned
I feel, making a documentary on the world’s greatest and largest geographical and sentimental partition, is like walking on a tight rope. A single word here or there, and the entire point of attempting a rational approach on the subject will fall head first. Thus, keeping in mind the afore mentioned, BBC did a highly commendable job by taking a stand of a third person in the narrative, yet being an active part of the stories narrated. This BBC documentary, made for the 60th anniversary of that event in 2007 by Ricardo Pollack, gives an overview of the political events that led up to that disaster, intermixed with eye-witness accounts and historical footages in which over a million people died, and 15 million were displaced.
We all are aware about the facts and figures relating to the dynamic partition of India and Pakistan through our history textbooks. What BBC did was to throw some spotlight on the people trapped in the then dilemma of partition, thus providing a humane touch to an otherwise mere account about one out of the hundreds of partitions that have occurred throughout history. There have been many painful stories which are covered in the documentary that caused me sleepless nights, which reveal how neither side was solely accountable for the tragedy which ensued because of partition. The documentary also has attempted some dramatised reconstructions of crucial scenes, thus delivering many undisclosed nuances in a consumable fashion.
The title of the documentary cannot be taken in literal terms, as, firstly, burning of homes was only a small part of the devious disasters that unfolded in the course of that time. The flame that burned, or rather is still burning, is that of politicisation of religious sentiments. Political motives of the affluent intermixed with volatile and fragile religious sentiments bore brunt on the common powerless men of the two nations. By giving a voice to the ones affected, BBC has in a way, given a chance to the common men, to own their won story and voice out their inner turbulences. No matter, how many years have bygone after the partition, the issues of migration and division still seem like fresh wounds that are hard to heel. This issue is an evergreen discussion for Indians and Pakistanis, and viewing an altogether foreign perspective on it, adds an element of novelty as well as clarity to the account. To sum up, the documentary was informative, at the same time emotionally appealing, which is a rare dichotomy to achieve. This documentary is highly recommended for history enthusiasts, as well as those who enjoy the process of stories unfolding on visual platforms.