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Pak documentary on partition outrages audience

Stories of the Broken Self, by Pakistani filmmaker Furrukh Khan, was screened at the capital's India International Centre on July 24.
None | By Indo-Asian News Service, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUL 26, 2006 01:53 PM IST

A Pakistani documentary on partition evoked a storm of protest here with its graphic language and chilling recalls to the past, leading large sections of the audience to say that such footage was uncalled for 59 years later.

Stories of the Broken Self, a 40-minute documentary by Pakistani filmmaker Furrukh Khan, was screened at the India International Centre here Monday.

It presented accounts of the hardships faced by women during the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 and showed numerous short interviews with several senior citizens from Pakistan narrating their experiences.

But after the screening, there was a ruckus with the audience accusing the director of being biased and presenting a one-sided story that would only widen the divide between the people of India and Pakistan.

Some of the dialogues in the documentary went like this: "Sikhs used to cut the breasts of young girls with their 'kirpans' (daggers) and left them lying there".

Another woman in the documentary remembered how the trains coming from India to Pakistan were full of corpses with smashed skulls, slaughtered limbs and full of blood. She went on to graphically describe the trains and the children who had been killed and said: "They were looted and killed all along the way by Sikhs and Hindus."

The dialogues and the presentation of the documentary was too much to take for most of the audience who protested vociferously. Some left the auditorium immediately after the screening, shouting loudly to the director that they were not pleased with the movie.

The general reaction of the people present was that the storyline was not in the interest of either nation, almost six decades after the cataclysmic partition of the subcontinent led to the creation of Pakistan and India. The ripples of that violent birth can still be felt with the two countries at best existing in uneasy peace.

"This presentation is totally one-sided and doesn't solve any problem. It only further divides the people," said a woman.

"We feel that the footage and interviews shown in the documentary might create a rift between people of the two countries," added a man from the audience.

Another person remarked that going into history would only hurt.

"There were several examples when Hindu families saved the lives of Muslims and vice-versa. These positive stories need to be narrated to people rather than the ones being screened by Khan."

Faced with the barrage of criticism, the director said in his defence: "The documentary is not yet complete and soon I will be taking interviews from the Indian side as well. And that's why I'm here."

Although some women in the documentary spoke of the love that both the communities shared before partition, it was overshadowed by the violence of their other comments.

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