Film: 'Partition'; Cast: Jimi Mistry, Kristin Kreuk, Neve Campbell, Irrfan Khan, Aarya Babbar, Madhur Jaffrey; Director: Vic Sarin; Rating: **
It really helps matters when the film's director does the cinematography himself. He is able to tell exactly what and how much to put in every frame without making the work look like a tree groaning with overripe fruits.
'Partition' looks right. The bustle and turbulence of Punjab in 1947 is splendidly secreted in every frame without the savagery overpowering the central romance that manoeuvres the rather stylised characters through a series of pseudo-historical adventures.
It's rather apparent that cinematographer-director Vic Sarin is hugely inspired by those resonant partition romances like 'Shaheed-e-Mohabbat Boota Singh' and 'Gadar - Ek Prem Katha'. Sarin borrows liberally from these sources and adds quaint shades of grey and purple to the partition design.
There's never a shortage of propulsion in the screenplay as the Punjabi Gian Singh (Jimi Mistry) falls in love with his refugee houseguest Naseem (Kristin Kreuk) from across the border, much to the ireful opposition of his villagers.
They want Naseem dead. He wants her in bed.
The somewhat predictable plot progression takes into consideration the highs and lows in the Gian-Naseem passion during the partition. Finally, though, the two actors' earnest intentions are felled rather than fuelled by their personalities.
Jimi, we've seen fooling around in pseudo-spiritual pop-yoga comedies like 'The Guru'. Putting him in a turban is a big mistake. Sunny Deol could carry it off with unassuming aplomb in 'Gadar'. Jimi can't for the life of him uphold the principles of the precarious turban. And the 'Punjabi' accent he invests into the smattering of desi words are cue to giggle.
Kristin Kreuk, a Caucasian actress posing as a Pakistani-Muslim masquerading as a Sikh boy, is the most confused emblem of hybridised culture we've seen in a film on an Indian theme.
Both, mind you, are competent and sincere performers. So is Madhur Jaffrey, who plays Gian's softening mother. But they just don't fit into the rugged Punjabi milieu.
By the time the plot progresses to its doomed climax, we care about the actors rather than the characters caught in a situation far beyond their control.
Irrfan Khan and Aarya Babbar, playing respectively Jimi's and Kristin's brother, dash in and dash out after a fling with fury signifying nothing except designer-wrath.
Thankfully, the narrative remains restrained all through. An arching sense of detached historicity is created through the character of the British girl (Neve Campbell, moving far away from her wild wanton image in 'Wild Things') who develops an enduring empathy with Gian.
At least Campbell looks her part in a film where the protagonists seem to have stolen their thunder from an alien environment.
Also you wonder what the need was for the gruesome tragic ending when all we ever wanted in this partition tale was a reunion.