(Certified: Dec 31, 1987)


The epic tale is seen mainly through the eyes of a tanner named Nathu(Om Puri) and his pregnant wife Karmo(Deepa Sahi). An effort to cause a communal conflict (one of the commonest strategie is to place a dead pig in a mosque) escalates into the pre-1947 throughout Punjab. The time is the period immediately preceding India's independence. Nathu is approached by a man known as Thekedar Sahib to kill a pig. Nathu has never killed a pig before. He does not wish to do so now, but the Thekedars request turns into a brusque command accompanied by an advance payment of five rupees. The money tempts Nathu to agree. His struggle to kill the pig is ultimately successful. The Congress workers led by Bakshi, with the naively fervent nationalist Jarnail Singh in its ranks, have been cleaning the gutters in predominantly Muslim area. The Muslim League and other parties have been busy with the routine organization of their own workers. Suddenly an angry and fearful buzz spreads through the town. A dead pig has been dumped before a mosque, thus defilling it. Rushing to the spot, Bakshi and Jarnail remove the pig, but it is already too late. There is panic arson and violence. Nathu sees the dead pig and is horrified. Is this the pig he killed ? Is he responsible then for the insane violence that is now spreading around him ? Nathu, totally petrified, blurts out the story of the pig to his preganant wife, Karmo. She persuades him not to blame himself. Finally the growing violence forces them to decide to leave their home carrying Nathu's old mother with them. Others have also left their homes by the thousands. An old Sikh couple Harnam Singh and Bantoo have seen their home destroyed before their eyes. Nathu's mother dies along the way. why should we bring a child into this kind of world? Nathu asks bitterly. Karmo answers, Because every child comes into the world with his own destiny. Nathu and Karmo meet Harnam and Banto along the way. Together they find shelter in a Gurdwara. Negotiations are on between the Sikhs who have gathered there, and a Muslim mob on the rampage for safe passage. They fail, and the Sikhs now leave the gurdwara to fight. Knowing fully well what the outcome will be the Sikh women march through a burning village singing a hymn, and do the only things left for them to do, in the circumstances to preserve their honour. Karmo, supported by Harnam Singh and Banto, makes her way painfully to a refugee camp. Here she finds Nathu's dead body laid out amongst hundreds of others for identification. Now at last she is forced to accept the truth. Nathu is dead and she is alone. Karmo's child born in a refugee tent. As the childs first cry fills the air, it is instantly drowned by aggressive communal slogans. What kind of a world is this child destined to inherit ?

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