Her films about ‘honour’ killings and acid attacks won Oscars – and caused fury in Pakistan. How will her latest work, an uncompromising look at lives wrecked by the partition of India, be received?
When Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy was studying for her A-levels while growing up in Pakistan, she heard that Michael Jackson was playing a concert in India. The 17-year-old was desperate to go, but when she told her grandfather, he forbade her – not just from the concert, but from the country. “He said, ‘You are going to India over my dead body.’ He was a very logical man, so I wondered why.”
The answer lies in 1947, when Obaid-Chinoy’s grandfather became one of more than 15 million people who fled across the hastily drawn borders between the new country of Pakistan and newly independent India. Seventy years on, the migration it sparked is still one of the biggest in history, while the repercussions – from the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 to the ongoing hostility between the two now nuclear countries – still shape the subcontinent today.