Biographical films have always been good box office. Often huge undertakings, in terms of cost and size of cast, they’ve proved to be popular both critically and with cinemagoers. They range from epics such as Gandhi, Lawrence of Arabia and Braveheart to the more intimate affairs of American Splendour and Ed Wood. Whilst Jamil Dehlavi’s Jinnah falls into the former category, it’s a much more reserved and thoughtful study than many of its peers.
Following his death, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Christopher Lee), the founder of Pakistan, is awaiting his final judgement. His guide (Shashi Kapoor) walks him through his life to establish whether he should reside for eternity in Heaven or Hell. Along the way, we revisit his early life campaigning for a Muslim free state, falling in love and marrying a Parsi girl, his dealings with Gandhi (Sam Dastor), Neru (Robert Ashby), Lord Mountbatten (James Fox) and the Indian National Congress, and the steadfast support of his sister (Shireen Shah).
Jinnah is simply one of the best biographical films I’ve seen. Whilst the ‘whitewashing’ could be described as questionable, it’s not noticeable after a few minutes. Christopher Lee describes this as his best performance and he’s absolutely mesmerising in the role; oozing gravitas and nobility. The decision to tell the story of Jinnah as a sequence of interactive memories is ingenious; allowing an extra level of introspection and rigour. Jinnah is a spellbinding biopic which paints an entertaining, yet in-depth, portrait of a great man.
Jinnah is released on Dual Format by Eureka Entertainment today.