A couple of years ago, I did a night class in Indian arthouse cinema. Unusual topic for an Irish girl, but I love Bollywood movies, and I wanted to learn more about the independent Indian film industry.
I saw some wonderful films - and particularly recommend Sanjit Ray's Apu trilogy - but this movie was the standout.
It's such a wonderful film, and tells a compelling story - of the biggest migration of people in history that marked Indian independence and partition, and of the resulting violence which exploded, between Hindu, Muslim and Sikh, a violence that also ripped apart communities and friendships.
The movie deals with fairly heavy topics, but much of the film is light in tone. It depicts the lives of a group of disparate friends, many of them wistful suitors of a beautiful Ayah who looks after a young Parsee girl, Lenny, the film's narrator. The love triangle between the Ayah, Ice Candy Man and the Masseur is engaging, often humorousm and extremely romantic. This means that when their friendships are rent apart by sectarian, senseless violence, the impact on the viewer is sudden and immense.
I actually brought a friend to the screening - as it was the last film of the course. She was reluctant and unsure if she'd enjoy it. Like me, she was enchanted by the story and characters, and horrified by the events that overtook them. The film's closing scenes are extremely powerful. When the screen turned to black and the credits started to roll, everyone in the cinema simply sat there stunned. I've rarely had that emotional a reaction to a film. I was as affected as if I had seen the events for myself first hand.
It's an astonishing film.