Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


PoWs in Indian Cinema: Sarabjeets in Celluloid

PoWs in Indian Cinema: Sarabjeets in Celluloid

Farhana Ahmed
May 8, 2013

The April 26th attacks by Pakistani inmates and subsequent death of Sarabjeet Singh, an Indian death row prisoner in Lahore’s Lakhpat Jail once again exposed the vulnerability of the unfinished agenda of Partition that our sub-continent suffers. Sarabjeet has been in jail and facing death penalty for last two decades for his alleged involvement in a blast in Lahore that took place in 1990. However Sarabjeet is just one example of inhuman detention of Indians in Pakistan which have been more or less not discussed in our cinematic spaces. Bollywod, which suffered Partition itself, seems to be reluctant in shedding lights on this subject that transcends national boundaries.

The first expression of resentment against Partition in Bollywood was perhaps first expressed in a song penned by Pradeep in I.S. Johar’s Nastik (1954):

Dekh tere insaan ki haalat,
Kya ho gaya Bhagwan
Kitna badal gaye insaan…

This song reflects the immediate devastating outcome of the Partition. Similarly Yash Chopra’s first movie Dharmaputra (1961) is about Partition, communal divide and the growing ultra majoritarain sentiments seen in those turbulent 1940s. Though the Censor Board okayed Chopra’s film at that time, in latter decades such issues became vey sensitive and unexpected subjects for cinema in the changed political scenario of our country. From 1980s onwards, Bollywood began naming Pakistan in its stories. Meanwhile, Pakistan too, emerged as a base of radical Islamist militancy and terrorism and this was copied in our films to reflect the anti-India activities across the western borders. Such movies, mostly with masaala elements, were commercial hits but they failed to present the issues realistically. Films like 16 December(2001), Qayamat (2003) provided entertainment on nuclear crisis—mostly replicating the Hollywood.

After M.S. Sathyu’s Garam Hawa (1973) the number of movies on effects of Partition in Bollywood is very few. Commercial hits like Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001) also lack deeper insight. Pamela Rook’s Train to Pakistan (1999) and Pankaj Butalia’s Karvan (1999) are some remarkable films on Partition. But Sarabjeet like issues came to Bollywood for the first time in 2004 with Yash Chopra’s Veer-Zara—a story of an IAF pilot who was imprisoned in Pakistan for several years. J.P. Dutta’s Refugee (2000) too, touched the issue of hate concerning our divided border. The notable exception of this cross-border tragedy so far is the Indo-Pak production of Nadita Dass starred Ramchand Pakistani (2008) which discussed the hate-politics of patriotism at the expense of love and humanity. This movie, directed by Mehreen Jabbar presents the sufferings of prisoners across the divide very sensitively. Ramchand, a Pakistani Hindu minor, accidently enters the Indian side of the border after quarreling with his mother. His ordeal as a prisoner in India with hundreds of such ‘illegal’ intruders is the state of affairs of many Sarabjeets facing uncertain future in jails across the border. Ashwin Kumar’s short film Little Terrorist (2004) is a telling story of a Muslim Pakistani child who enters India while trying to collect a cricket ball who later returns home with the help of a benevolent Indian Hindu. Amit Sagar’s 2007 film 1971 is also about the Indian POWs in Pakistan. However the “happy ending” of the movies has not been translated in reality so far as the fate of the Sarabjeets are concerned. All are still remaining like Toba Tek Singh somewhere in dark cells of deprivation—a state that cinema can put focus.

*************

Farhana Ahmed is a cine critic based in Assam, India.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

David Swanson: Torture Is Mainstream Now

As Rebecca Gordon notes in her new book, Mainstreaming Torture, polls find greater support in the United States for torture now than when Bush was president. And it's not hard to see why that would be the case. More>>

Uri Avnery: In One Word: Poof!

Poor John Kerry. This week he emitted a sound that was more expressive than pages of diplomatic babble. In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee he explained how the actions of the Israeli government had torpedoed the “peace ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: The Poverty Incentive: Making The Poor Carry The Refugee Can

The poorer you are, the more likely you need to shoulder more. This axiomatic rule of social intercourse, engagement and daily living is simple and brutal enough: the poor shall hold, conserve, preserve. More>>

Nureddin Sabir: BBC Misreports John Kerry On Talks Failure

For once, US Secretary of State John Kerry was not mincing his words when he blamed Israel for the breakdown of talks with the Palestinians. But you would not have known this if you were following the story from the BBC News website. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Narendra Modi, And The Elections In India

On the upside, the gigantic election process that began yesterday in India is the largest exercise in democracy on the planet. Reportedly, a staggering five million people are employed, directly or indirectly, in the election process. The likely outcome is not quite so welcome... More>>

ALSO:

Ramzy Baroud: Kerry’s Looming Deadline And The Peace Process Industry

As the US-imposed April 29 deadline for a ‘framework’ agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority looms, time is also running out for the American administration itself. More>>

Harvey Wasserman: Fighting Our Fossil-Nuke Extinction

The 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster has brought critical new evidence that petro-pollution is destroying our global ecosystem. The third anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown in Japan confirms that radioactive reactor ... More>>

Shobha Shukla: Rise In Global Health Financing, But Funding Priorities Shift

A new research done by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), at the University of Washington, indicates that globally the total development assistance for health (DAH) hit an all-time high of $31.3 billion in 2013 (a year-over-year ... More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
TEDxAuckland
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news