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Blu-ray & DVD Review
At the end of the Second World War, the British colonies demanded their independence, no more so than India. While Ghandi led the Hindu resistance to the occupation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had come to the decision that Indian Muslims would never have a proper say in the new state as they were vastly in the minority. With steely determination he fought for a Muslim homeland, Pakistan…
Jinnah (1998. 1 hr, 49 min, 48 sec) is a historical drama, directed by Jamil Dehlavi, who co-wrote the script with Akbar Ahmed. The film was not without its controversy, both when it was being made on location and following its limited release. The film’s star, Christopher Lee, felt it was one of his best and most important work and to vindicate this view the film won four awards.
The film is framed in a most peculiar way, given that it wishes the audience take the story seriously. The story starts at the end. Jinnah passes on and finds himself in heaven. In order to decide his final fate his life must be examined to see if he was a just man. The problem is that the records have been kept on computers which are now non-functional.
So, like the ghost of Christmas past, Jinnah is taken back through his life, by a celestial guide (Shashi Kapoor) and we watch with Jinnah as his story unfolds. He is also able to interact with his younger self. Initially I thought the framing idea ludicrous, but it actually works in the end as the film is able to pack more explanation of events with Jinnah as an interactive observer.
Christopher Lee is able to imbue Jinnah with a suitable level of gravity for an elder statesman and arguably we can agree with Lee that this was some of his best work. The rest of the cast are more variable, with the English, led by James Fox playing Mountbatten as stereotypical imperialists, sharing the plum mouthed dialogue.
The 2.35:1 aspect ratio picture looks sumptuous, even given the honey hue that is ingrained in every frame and the cinematography Nic Knowland brings forth the beauty of the background to some very violent scenes. The DVD contains no extras, but does have optional English subtitles.
Birth is often painful and it was for Pakistan, made worse by some of the decisions made by the British when they finally agreed to partition. The story is told with heart and does not confine itself to just Jinnah's political life as the film balances this with his personal life, which is often sacrificed on the altar of independence.
Although Jinnah did not end up as worldly famous as Ghandi, the film still ends up as a moving and intelligent look at a troubled time in India and Pakistan’s history.
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