Monday, August 23, 2010


M S Sathyu’s ‘Garam Hawa’ is arguably the best and moving Indian film ever made on the subject of 1947 partition. The condition of a partition torn Indian Muslim is never shown with such restrained and convincing manner in any other Indian film so far. Without being preachy or didactic anywhere he narrated the most painful tragic chapter of Indian history focusing on a Muslim family of Agra in the time of partition. An aging shoe factory owner Salim Mirza is the face of Indian Muslim who has unshakable faith in God and reluctant to live and die in Agra-his homeland after partition. But slowly one by one all of his family members either leave the homeland or the world. And amid all this time of communal frenzy and identity crisis he’s facing terrible loss not only in business but also the most personal one when his beloved daughter Amina being ditched twice by her prospective grooms commits suicide. Ultimately heartbroken Mirza makes up his mind to leave his native town in a horse cart. The movie ends with the optimistic ending.

Sathyu’s minute observation and depth is found in many subjects. Whether it’s Indian Muslim’s displaced dilemma at partition time or the face of the volatile time which gave birth to discriminating reality of minority and majority narrowing social consciousness; Sathyu with his restrained command eschew any sort of unnecessary ingredients of political stand, melodrama, song or gloomy violent portrayal. Infact there’re lot of light moments, portraying quite deaf grandma and off course the secret romance on terrace. The authentic portrayal and characterization of extended joint Muslim family and brilliant framing of Agra’s internal streets incuding Agra Fort and Taj also deserve praise.

The most remarkable part of the film is Salim Mirza played by Balraj Sahni, one of the gentleman actor of his time. Undoubtedly this is his career best performance came in the ending part of his career. What a natural and restraint actor!!! In fact never ever I’ve seen any actor acts so effortlessly natural in his character on Indian screen. In most of the scenes Sathyu kept the camera steadily focused on the expressions of Sahni’s face which speaks louder than words. One has to watch his other two gem of performance in Bimal Roy’s Neo-Realistic ‘Do Bigha Zameen’ and Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s one of the most personal favorite ‘Anuradha’. The most sentimental part of the film is the portrayal of father-daughter relation nicely supported by Mina Siddharth Kak. The film has almost gathered many IPTA artists- actors including Sahni, A K Hangal and many others, Kaifi Aazmi who penned the screenplay (based on short story by Ismat Chugtai) and sharp dialogues in impeccable Urdu along with Shama Zaidi who later works with Benegal in most of his projects.

Few scenes stays in memory for long- the grandma revisiting haveli in doli reminiscing her past prior to her death, second time heartbroken Amina trying to see herself with red bridal sari in mirror prior to suicide and above all the last where poignant Mirza leaves the town in the horse cart. Its pity to Indian Cinema that such a masterpiece is still unavailable in VCD/DVD till day.
Thanks a ton to dearest community buddy Abhishek Prasad for sharing the link of this long unavailable masterpiece.

Ratings- 10/10

PS- In July 2003 exactly thirty years after release of the film, M S Sathyu in an interview published in Times of India (unavailable on net), said as follows about his film:

The film was a watermark in my career. It’s hard to say why it has the sort of cult appeal it does. Perhaps it is because it is a social comment but stops short of being a political propaganda. Perhaps because it is about assimilation and not division. I feel a sense of achievement because the film is moving but not a melodrama.

Garam Hawa took a lot out of my friend Balraj, one of the best actors India has produced. He had suffered a personal tragedy a year before the film, his daughter had killed herself. Like Salim Mirza in the film, Balraj was very close to his daughter. In the movie she commits suicide too. I shot the father-daughter sequences in the manner of Balraj Sahni’s relationship with his daughter: cruel of me but that makes the relationship very touching in the film. Balraj gave a consummate performance-controlled, very effective, just like the film itself.

Source- The Most Memorable Films of the World (From the diaries of the film societies)
By H. N. Narhari Rao (Prism Books Pvt. Ltd. Banglore)

1 comment:

Gautam B said...

great movie.........