Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"Jinnah", the Movie ...

Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.
(Professor Stanley Wolpert)

Jinnah, the movie, begins with these words of eulogy in honor of Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Jamil Dehlvi’s effort is a commendable one, partly because he brings forth a historically accurate picture of Jinnah and his times. Unlike Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, which was a sadistic take on Jinnah, Dehlvi’s production presents its characters in a fairly balanced and neutral manner, seemingly guided by the principles of the man he seeks to portray, i.e. justice, fair play, and impartiality. Dehlvi presents the facts and events as they were and allows the audience to arrive at their own conclusions. However, this does not mean that Jinnah is a dry lesson in history. On the contrary, it is a very engaging account, with an element of fantasy sprinkled in the movie that not only serves to lighten the mood but also helps in eliciting Jinnah’s perspective.

The young Jinnah is convincingly played by Richard Lintern, who portrays Jinnah as the brilliant, self-respecting, and suave gentleman that he was. Dehlvi has skillfully balanced the cold, calculating, and astute Jinnah who dramatically dumb-witted his opponents in court and in politics, with the gentle and loving Jinnah who affectionately loved his sister and who dared a romantic escapade with the beautiful Ruttie. The elder Jinnah, played by Christopher Lee (again very convincingly), is shown to have matured into a statesman and a spokesperson for the Muslim community of India. As always, Jinnah is thoroughly self-respecting and will not settle for anything less than a separate country precisely because he believes it is the “only way” to self-respect. This perspective of Jinnah is effectively brought out in the following conversation that takes place between the viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, and the Quaid-e-Azam:

Mountbatten: Divide the country in two? Muslims on one side, Hindus on the other? Mr Jinnah and his madness!
Jinnah: No, Mountbatten. It would be equally insane to leave a Muslim minority at the mercy of a Hindu majority, many of who hate us. Now, if the English Parliament …
Mountbatten (cutting Jinnah short): The Prime Minister has given me full powers. I decide. That’s why I am here, as representative of the King Emperor.
Jinnah: Whom we respect. I am here as a representative of a Muslim nation whom you must learn to respect.

Some people have questioned the reasons for the creation of a separate Muslim state. They cite as arguments against the creation of Pakistan the genocides of 1947 and 1971, the secession of Bangladesh, the three wars fought over Kashmir, and the overall failure of successive Pakistani governments. Such spurious reasoning is the product of ignorance or sheer prejudice. Granted those are pathetic facts, but they do not serve as evidence against the creation of Pakistan. It would be dumb indeed to surmise that it would have been all flowers and sunshine if only we had remained part of a larger India. We should not forget Quaid-e-Azam’s incisive words in the conversation quoted above: “many of who hate us”. Yes, many of them hated us in the early twentieth century and many of them still hate us in the early twenty-first century. To be sure, it was this hatred that spurred the genocide of 1947; it was this hatred that conspired with the Soviet Union to incite the genocide of 1971; and it was this hatred that provided the ideological ammunition to fight three wars over Kashmir.

Though Quaid-e-Azam’s vision still lies in the future (albeit not-too-distant future – and that’s something which is the subject of my next post, insha’Allah), I would, for the moment, like to emphasize that Pakistan has the potential to spearhead the formation of an Islamic Bloc, a position it couldn’t hold if it were part of secular India. This alone is good enough reason for the creation of Pakistan, and woe to the disbelievers.

Who says that Pakistan is a failure, yet India is a success? For the record, allow me to mention that we are economically slightly better off than India (rates of abject poverty being significantly lower in Pakistan), we have very low prevalence of HIV/AIDS compared with India’s sky-high rates, and we have a cricket team that wins more often than it loses when it is in mortal combat with the Indians.

Long live Jinnah.

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