The movie Earth is directed by Deepa Mehta and is based on the novel Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa. It is based on partition history and is looked at through the narration of an innocent 8-year-old Parsi girl living in Lahore named Lenny however, it was later revealed that it is the future and older Lenny recalling her experience as a child. The movie is about the friendship between Lenny’s caretaker, Shanta and her group of friends which comprises of individuals from Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faith. Their friendship is portrayed as pure and free from hatred in the former half of the movie when it was just building in on the pressures of partition. Initially, it was seen that the people lived in harmony and people from all religions intermingled freely and Muslims were seen celebrating the Hindu kite festival.
The movie also portrays how the tension between the Hindu-Muslim community had started to grow and the effect it had on the people. In the movie, the park where everyone would sit together and spend their time had now changed, apart from Shanta and her circle. Amidst the chaos of partition which was further aggravated to a large extent when a train filled with Muslim bodies arrived at Lahore, which was the start of the deterioration of the friend circle, and the beginning of religion as a dividing factor between them. Soon Partition became a reality and shook the clutches of humanity and friendship.
The movie raises a lot of questions about gender violence in the time of partition and the role of religion as the cause of a dividing factor. The movie managed to make mentions about gender violence, with the use of rape and taking advantage of women, the mentions of those who were raped as “giri hui aurat” i.e a woman with no self-respect, child marriage, perpetration of brutality and dismembered bodies of women in the train that returned to Lahore with the dead bodies. The interaction with Lenny and the young Muslim boy whose mother was raped and murdered also highlighted the effect of the violence that took place at the time of migration. In the movie, a child marriage of a huge age difference took place to secure the girls future in order to keep her safe, simply because the man was of Christian faith.
The movie grips at what important role religion played in evoking the sentiments and rage of the people. Someone was seen saying in the movie that “Fear is making people do crazy things.” There was a scene where there were chants of “Hindustan Murdabad” and “Pakistan Zindabad” by an angry mob of Muslim protestors and similarly, towards the end of the film, there is a scene of Sikh and police brutality and the chants of “Murdabad” along with extreme violence by the same in the form of lighting houses on fire. Since the setting of the movie was based in Lahore, the train with dead bodies scene was of importance on portraying the Hindu perpetrated violet from India as witnessed from the perspective of the Muslims residing in Lahore. The conversion of Hindus to Islam or Christianity in Pakistan and vice versa in India for protection and stability shows just how important and powerful religion was in deciding the fate and safety of the people.
Before the credit scenes, the daunting numbers of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus that were killed was mentioned and countless rapes took place on a large account. It was the first time that such a religious and political division was made in the world with the Hindu majority in India and the Muslim majority in Pakistan. The appeal to religious sentiments that paved way for demands of Pakistan as a safe space for Muslims did not take into account the minority status of Muslims in India and safeguarding their rights, so moreover, both sides had left out minorities whose safety was not accounted for. The partition turned into a religious war, rather than safeguarding the same. The movie also silently comments on the neutral stance of the Parsi family and how it was a matter of privilege at the time. The family insisted on following a western system, dressing in western attire, admiring the English language and the western dance form. Unlike other girls who had to worry about child marriage or forced marriage, Lenny was in a relatively safer space due to her economic and social privilege, despite being of the less privileged gender.
The film does not talk much about the political leaders and political aspirations behind the creation of Pakistan, apart from a few mentions of Jinnah by the Muslims in the duration of the movie and the Muslim want for the creation of a Muslim majority state. It was fast-paced and in reality, the partition of the two nations came after a long period of time and the building up of tension happened over a span too. The well being of one majority in a country was a matter of concern of the well being of the same religion in the other country. Communities that coexisted as neighbours and well-wishers turned their backs on each other and contributed to the genocide, the outcome of that was the mass killings and suffering faced by both sides and instability in the newly formed countries.
The movie ends with Lenny recalling her guilt over never seeing her “ayah” ever again after she was taken by an angry mob of Muslim men and questions if all that chaos and violence was worth it and what grieves over what has become of a nation that was once knit together. Unlike a lot of movies based on Indian partition, this movie was made from a neutral stance in the voice of Lenny and didn’t portray violence only from one community and the demonisation of the same, but it tried to make way for a more wide approach and portrayed the sufferings of both communities equally. The tension between the two countries is far from dead and the aftermath of the partition which raises questions of nationalism, as well as the minority status of Muslims in India, is still visible despite the secular arrangement of the constitution.
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