Made less than 10 years after India achieved independence from Britain (followed by the subsequent partition into the separate nation states of India & Pakistan), Bhowani Junction–released in 1956–is a fascinating “slice in time.”
But Gardner is so gorgeous as the “Chichi” in the middle (with an English father & an Indian mother) that it is hard to see anything else, even on a big screen.
Screenplay was co-written by Sonya Levien with Ivan Moffat, based on 1954 novel by John Masters. (JLH: 3.5/5)
Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku. Not yet seen by Rich.
Now that the pressure of seeing all of the “Best Films of 2013” is finally over for me, I headed off to the Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center (where I am now a member) to see an “Oldie but Goodie.”
I went to see Bhowani Junction because I am fascinated with the Partition of India/Pakistan (see review of Deepa Mehta’s recent film Midnight’s Children). I also had strong memories of Bhowani Junction from childhood. So as I sat at FilmLinc seeing promo after promo for the “George Cukor Retrospective,” I resolved to go see Bhowani Junction again. (Note that I was at FilmLinc to see some of the Oscar nominated Docs that I still needed to see before 12/31/13 deadline. Done!) In other words, I went just for the fun of it.
But surprise: As soon as the credits started to roll, I saw that Bhowani Junction was co-written by Sonya Levien, an Oscar-Winning Screenwriter, making Bhowani Junction not just fun but postable 🙂
So I wish I could tell you that Bhowani Junction is a terrific film, but alas, I can’t. It’s a mid-50s movie movie that is very much of its time. It has a melodramatic, overwrought tone, some of the acting (especially by Bill Travers) is really bad, & despite the desire to decry racism, some scenes do have a racist edge the the contemporary eye. And yet…
For all that, Bhowani Junction is a very interesting film that tackles difficult political issues from a woman’s POV & paints a fascinating portrait of a woman living at that place at that time. And what a woman! Ava Gardner is so gorgeous as “Victoria Jones” that it’s hard to see anyone or anything else, even on a big screen!
Born to an English father & an Indian mother, Victoria Jones is a “Chichi” who belongs in neither world. When the story begins she is returning home after 4 years of military service in the British Army. (Remember this is all taking place just after the end of WWII.) She thinks she has done her part, but she’s wrong. The Gandhi supporters of non-violent passive resistance are loosing ground & more radical actors are undermining their efforts, so enter heroic & ultimately irresistible “Colonel Rodney Savage” (Stewart Granger) who demands that Victoria stay in uniform & do her part to help calm the waters.
But Victoria is only half-English, so her upper lip isn’t quite stiff enough. When Savage deliberately denigrates the Gandhi supporters, her Indian side rears up in anger. She starts wearing saris & decides to marry a colleague (Francis Matthews) who is Sikh. Gorgeous as she is in her uniform (could any woman really have such a tiny waist?), Ava Gardner “gone native” is too beautiful to describe. There’s much to be learned from this film, but it’s hard to care about history–even for me–in the face of such radiance!
Bottom Line: If you get a chance to see Bhowani Junction on a big screen, then by all means take it. Meanwhile here’s a link to the DVD.