Bhowani Junction The year is 1947, the British are on the verge of finally leaving India. Amongst the few who are sorry to see the British leave are the Anglo-Indians, half British and half Indian, for they are going to miss the patronage of their white cousins, the job reservations, and the important status and positions they currently hold. The British, quite frankly, do not think well of Anglo-Indians, nor do the Indians. Victoria Jones is one such Anglo-Indian, a WAC in the British Army, her father a railway engine driver, and her mom a housewife. She is close to another Anglo-Indian, Patrick Taylor, but changes her mind about him as he harbors deep hatred for the Indians. She witnesses Col. Rodney Savage instruct his soldiers to pour filthy water and garbage at the hands of untouchables on high-caste men and women who are protesting by laying down on the railway tracks to prevent trains from moving. Repulsed and shocked at this, she turns to Ranjit Singh Kassi, a Sikh, and longs to be Indian.
India’s Independence Birth Pangs
The setting for Bhowani Junction is India during the last days of the British Raj. The town of Bhowani is a railroad junction and both the Congress Party and the Communist Party are doing all kinds of sabotage to help the British quickly get out of India. Of course each is doing it for their own reasons.
Two people who may have given the outstanding performances of their careers are Ava Gardner and Bill Travers. Both play bi-racial people who don’t fit in either society. But they react differently. Gardner is going through a whole lot of angst, really seeing both the British and Indian point of view. How she missed an Oscar nomination here is beyond me.
Bill Travers is the railroad station manager and his whole life is his job. He focuses narrowly on that and his tunnel vision leaves him oblivious to the momentous changes around him. Except for the fact that when the British leave he might lose that little piece of authority where he is, that which gives him stature in the Raj society.
The issues are complex, but in the hands of a great director like George Cukor the characters and their struggles become real and even more important, the audience becomes interested.
Stewart Granger who was the British Colonel in charge of the whole mess in Bhowani, said that Bhowani Junction was one of the few films he was really proud to be associated with. He has a struggle to, he really does see the Indians as human beings and not just “wogs.” He’s quite knowledgeable about their customs and at one point utilizes that knowledge to unjam that railroad terminal.
Bhowani Junction is an intelligent and literate drama and a superb piece of film making.