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Khalid's films bridge Deep Divide

Poignant to the core, Khalid Mohammad's genre of subjects has inadvertently dealt with the angst of separation and complex roots of the post partition India and Pakistan. He also has a penchant for writing women oriented scripts, which are mostly autobiographical. From his earlier Mammo to Fiza, and more recently Zubeidaa are all pages lifted from his life saga.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2004 17:33 IST

Little is known about scriptwriter-turned-director Khalid Mohammad except that he shared a past as coloured as any of the period Hindi movie saga. Recognised widely for his journalistic credentials, the popular film critic is more known for his penchant for writing women oriented scripts, which are mostly autobiographical. From his earlier Mammo to Fiza, and more recently Zubeidaa are all pages lifted from his life saga.

Poignant to the core, Khalid's genres of subjects have inadvertently dealt with the angst of separation and complex roots of post partition India and Pakistan.

On a personal quest

What is it that attracts this writer-turned director to subjects of the heart from across the border? "Well it's been more of a personal; quest - a search for identity and belonging that has led me to deal with such subjects. There is this search for unanswered questions that makes one restless," says he.

It is this search that made Khalid look for answers hitherto not dealt by both sides of the border. "It is a very complicated set up. We live in India, but have relatives in Pakistan. Although we share a sense of belonging with its culture, people and heritage, we share the lack of it when translated in political dynamics.

That is because I have lived in post partition India with tales of enmity on both sides being profound. I do have a father living in Pakistan, but its as good as not being aware of his existence. So there is tremendous angst and mystery, which makes one realise of their complex roots, said the writer-turned-director.

Themes that touch cross-border ties

Touching thematically upon issues of cross border ties comes naturally to this soft spoken, low profile writer as he searches for his roots amongst his relatives across the border. "It was this perseverant quest that made me write Mammo - the film was based on the real life story of my grand aunt who was married and settled in post partition Pakistan whereas her other sisters were settled in India," says he.

"What I've tried to portray through this movie is that at the end of the day we are the same people from similar cultural backgrounds. A mere division of territorial expanse cannot wear away our feelings and emotions for those who are living across the border."

About Mammo

He goes on to sketch the trauma of divided families and personal ties, which have had to settle for false promises in place of redressal of their yearnings and pain for their loved ones.



"What I've tried to portray through this movie is that at the end of the day we are the same people from similar cultural backgrounds. A mere division of territorial expanse cannot wear away our feelings and emotions for those who are living across the border as we form part of one family - many in this case through blood relations. It is therefore the anguish of separation (as was evident in my grand aunt's case) between blood relations who have to ascribe to political and geographical compulsions, which is very sad."


Search for roots

Mammo was first such movie after Garam Hawa and the much acclaimed teleserial Tamas, which showcased the pain of people living in same cultural milieu but divided by political and geographical dynamics.

Mammo was first such movie after Garam Hawa and the much acclaimed teleserial Tamas, which showcased the pain of people living in same cultural milieu but divided by political and geographical dynamics.

"The film was more on a personal note and its idea came from the fact that we have many relatives and cousins in Pakistan including my father. It was the search for one's roots and so the film was more on the human situation than a political statement. I had been toying with the idea for some time when Shyam Benegal saw the script, liked it and we made the movie consequently," says he.



There are numerous instances whereby lack of records or political compulsions have separated families from across the border during partition and even after it. Khalid for one has not seen or met his father who is living somewhere in Pakistan.

"I don't know where he is. I haven't seen him or met him. That is why you will see most of my films like Mammo, Zubeidaa, Fiza or Tehzeeb or earlier Sardari Begum where there is this absence of a father figure - the disappearance of the father, or the insignificance of his presence, is left to imagination.

It is this feeling which finds common, ground amongst many of us who have gone through the repercussions of partition or been witness to it", says he.

Saying this he almost brushes aside any further query on the subject clearly in an attempt to avoid the painful topic. Prod him on why he hasn't attempted to find his father and he quips, "I don't have the strength or emotional courage to go through the process."

It is all the more compelling for Khalid to identify subjects, which trail the family bearings to its roots. "I have a neighbour Mr. Kapoor who was born in Pakistan and talks with nostalgia and romanticism about his birthplace. Films like Mammo or earlier Garam Hawa have tried to plead for such human pacifism, for our roots are very complicated," says he.

"We did see Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan become a force to reckon with in India. Earlier there was Mehandi Hassan and Ghulam Ali. Similarly Lata, Asha and Kishore Kumar are liked and appreciated across the border."

As a solution to the enforced separation between peoples of India and Pakistan, Khalid insists on a more people to people contact. Says he, "although I have grown up with the idea of continued hostility and enmity between the two nations, which I feel should be addressed, border issues according to me should not be profound.



There is definitely a division between the two countries, which is reflected in its people. One wishes that there be harmony and amiability. More people to people contact is the need of the hour. One is an Indian by nationality and we live happily, but it does affect many of us like me, as we have relatives across the border."

First Published: Jan 06, 2004 16:28 IST