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Showing posts from July, 2014

Kartar Singh, 1959, Pakistan

Originally written for EPW Blog
While Indian cinema of 1950s is mostly blank on the subject of Partition, poet Saifuddin Saif’s Kartar Singh (1959), a Punjabi film from Pakistan is perhaps the best specimen in which we can see the way Partition was explored in moving pictures by a generation that had been recently and directly impacted by the events of 1947.

The story is set in a village where Sikh, Hindus and Muslims are a well-knit unit. The world outside is slowly getting more violent (in the first scene we see local Hindu medicine man Vaid Prem Nath reading the news aloud and wondering about the sorry state of the world) but the village is an island of peace where words of Waris Shah sung by the local mendicant still bring solace to souls of worrying kind. The only sign of trouble in the village is a rakish young Sikh man named Kartar Singh, the antagonist from whom the film gets its name. Kartar Singh is introduced to the viewers as he attempts to abduct a young woman in the dark …