There are many ways to look at the partition after the British finally left the Subcontinent that led to the making of Pakistan. And sadly, eventually Bangladesh after a war with India.
But, the Indo-Pak partition alone was a violent time and when all was said and done, it became one of the largest human migrations in history with close to 15 million people displaced and one million dead.
Along with the displacement and those trying to get to Bangladesh, then still East Pakistan or Lahore or Karachi faced among other things, sexual violence, brutality of the worst kind and everything else you read about in a war-zone book.
This painful time that we pretend didn’t exist is – in some ways – the subject of Kamal Khan’s short Beila – that marks the launch of Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy HOME1947 Series.
But how do you encompass a forgotten history (except for those who have lived through it and survived to tell the tales) and a very violent time like that in a short film?
Kamal Khan, a storyteller, Mo Azmi, Director of Photography, background score artist Danial Hyatt all contribute to the narrative.
Written and directed by Kamal Khan, and released on YouTube just four days ago, Beila opens with two separate maps before Kamal’s Gali Films – in association with SOC Films - comes out.
We are introduced to the same numbers that the partition displaced over 15 million people, “creating an overwhelming refugee crisis in the newly constituted stated. Many of these migrants left their homes amidst the political, social and economic instability endured by the states.”
With a running time of 4 minutes and 30 seconds, Beila is a film that aims to capture as closely as possible a day – just one day – a night when a train is set to leave for an unknown destination and the characters within that train. One gentleman accompanied by a woman tells the story of how his sister was killed and his brother, his sister-in-law, his whole family was killed. His parents were killed.
It is a train waiting to leave and everyone seems to have a story and the background score by Danial Hyatt is excellent. It really reminds you of a train station, the little noises that separate the special from the mundane and every sound that you expect and don’t expect in such a train. It is completely surprising and it works surprisingly well with Beila.
While the man is still talking about how he will never forgive, a woman accompanying a child wrapped in her arms is the protagonist of the story.
TV actress Faiza Gillani, essays a mother who is singing lullaby to her child in her arms, with tears in her eyes, perhaps remembering her old home, and what was left behind, while men are heading for the train to burn it. It’s the song that gets you the most. She sang live on the set in one take.
Some of the members who made Beila such as Kamal Khan, Mo Azmi, Faizi Gillani and Danial Hyatt were all a part of Laal Kabootar, the 2019 thriller in one way or other.
As for Home1947, it is a series of 7 short films conceptualized and produced by SOC Films. Notes a press statement: “The HOME1947 Series was first premiered as part of the HOME1947 Exhibition at the Manchester International Festival in the UK followed by exhibitions in Mumbai [India], Lahore and Karachi.”