Canadian filmmaker Vic Sarin’s Partition is a saccharin sweet reworking of the Romeo & Juliet story line, set in India during the 1947 separation of that country with what would become Pakistan. Gian (played by Jimi Mistry) is our protagonist, a strong, noble and silent variation on the usually brash Romeo archetype. Gian is a Sikh, and although there is much conflict between Sikhs and Muslims along the border regions during the partition, our protagonist turns a blind eye to the sectarian brutality. He has seen enough violence after serving alongside British soldiers during the Second World War. During his tour of duty, Gian was assigned to flank a young man from a fortuitous British background. This young man is killed in battle and Gian left haunted by his failure to protect his master.
Enter Neve Campbell, who seems to have been swallowed up by a string of downright terrible career moves since her days as a small screen princess. Here Ms. Campbell assumes the role of Margaret, the aforementioned young soldier’s older sister, who remains in India after the war. Margaret too is burdened by haunting recollections of her baby brother. This shared sense of guilt and mourning is meant to bind our protagonist to Margaret in some unspeakable bond that, of course, is underpinned with a hint of sexual attraction. This subplot isn’t tapped for any of its potential, however, and we are instead introduced to the fragile and overtly tragic Naseem (Smallville’s Kristen Kreuk) who is a young Muslim woman caught in the crossfire as her traveling party is ravaged by a horde of ruthless Sikhs.
Of course, Gian finds Naseem in hiding and whisks her away to the safety of his simple home. But now Naseem is at the epicentre of the hornet’s nest, as Gian lives amongst those who wish revenge upon Muslims for unexplained reasons that are meant to be left ambiguous.
As one would expect, all of this melodrama ends in a tumult of tragedy. And this expectation is what ultimately disappoints. Both Gian and Naseem are pleasant to look at as our ill-fated lovers, but they both seem to have only two emotional gears: maudlin and rapture, while Ms. Campbell is only entrusted with muffled tears behind closed doors.
Partition is at best a throwaway dime store drama. Instead of taking advantage of an emotionally charged backdrop, Partition merely manages to short change its historical context in favour of clich