As the year 1947 witnessed the birth of two new nations, it also saw the emergence of two distinct film industries, a partition of Indian cinema resulting from the ongoing political upheaval. Starting with the ruthless migration of talent between the two newly formed nations, where we lost some and gained others, to the concentration of "movie talkie businesses" in the then nascent city of dreams, the year marked the beginning of what eventually became a multimillion dollar and hope industry. It is remarkable to note the impact, nation's independence and partition, had upon the then upcoming film scene in India.
National award winning film critic and historian, Rafique Baghdadi, explains, "It was a very tense period, mangled with confusion and excitement. People were full of hope for a new and better nation, while at the same time there was a looming sense of insecurity, and that is reflected in the movies that were made in that time."
Jugnu, starring Dilip Kumar and Noor Jehan, was the most popular film released that year, along with other movies like Do Bhai, drew upon the eclipsing atmosphere of the period. It is also interesting to note that while Dilip Kumar went on to becoming a big time movie star, Noor Jehan, who starred in both the above mentioned films, moved to Pakistan along with her husband Shaukat Hussain Rizvi.
“It was also the year that cinema legends like Raj Kapoor and Madhubala made their debut in the Indian film industry with the release of Neel Kamal,” adds Baghdadi.
"People were for the first time truly free, and had extremely high expectations. They were hoping for Utopia; that they would have houses and other facilities. Sections of society on Bombay, such as mill workers were building upon this hope for a better future. These emotions were further fuelled by leaders of the movement who worked to dispel fears and provide security. The following decade witnessed numerous seminars addressing issues of corruption and other social evil," explains Baghdadi.
"And so, the movies that came out immediately after independence reflect the same excitement and insecurities, and spoke of a glorious new nation."
"The stories on partition didn't come till much later," he asserts, "It was only about four or five decades later people came out with their tragic experiences of being displaced from their homes, and these were then recreated on the silver screen."
On being asked about the talent that we lost to the partition, Baghdadi quips, "Many of our artists, music directors and poets were originally from Lahore, which was one of the cities with a thriving film industry, and so the stayed in Pakistan."
"In fact, the first film in Pakistan, made in 1948, was called Teri Yaad and starred Asha Posley and Nasir Khan. Interestingly, Khan was the brother of Dilip Kumar and had chosen to stay in Lahore," he adds.
But we did gain a lot of artists who either found their roots in Bombay or decided to move to the city of dreams. Various filmmakers, music composers and even actors such as Sunil Dutt came to movie scene in India after the partition and helped create the Herculean industry that it is today.
Talking about the city, as it was 24 hours prior to the independence, he describes, "People were definitely euphoric. They were out on the streets, in the trams and buses. There was a smile on everyone's faces. Even the movie stars could not escape the contagious excitement. Reports suggest that Dev Anand took his car out and drove all around Churchgate in it, while Baburao Patel of the Film India fame, hosted a very big party at his residence in Kemps Corner, attended by many well-known celebrities of the time."
But he concludes with a couplet by the Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz on the subject of independence and partition that roughly translates as follows, "These tarnished rays, this night-smudged light; this is not that Dawn for which, ravished with freedom, we had set out in sheer longing, so sure that somewhere in its desert the sky harboured a final haven for the stars, and we would find it. We had no doubt that night’s vagrant wave would stray towards the shore that the heart rocked with sorrow would at last reach its port. Friends, come away from this false light. Come, we must search for that promised Dawn."