M.S. Sathyu’s ‘Garm Hava’, which roughly translates to ‘Scorching Winds’, is based on an unpublished Urdu short story by Ismat Chughtai. It was adapted for the big screen by Kaifi Azmi (Shabana Azmi’s father) and Shama Zaidi (director M.S. Sathyu’s wife). The film revolves around how a Muslim family, living in Agra, copes up with the repercussions of the India-Pakistan partition.
The movie is an absolute must-watch. Any Hindi film, which borders on religion and communalism, doesn’t come close.
‘Garm Hava’ is about how the Mirza family, based in Agra, India, comes to terms with the after-effects of the India-Pakistan partition. The family, headed by two brothers; Salim (Balraj Sahni) and Halim (Dinanath Zutshi), takes care of its livelihood by running a shoe-manufacturing business in the city. However, post the partition, things start to get difficult for this relatively modernist Muslim family. Even though the Mirzas are keen to stay back in India, circumstances in the country make it difficult for them to lead a peaceful life.
So, Halim, who is a major leader of the All India Muslim League, backs out and leaves for Pakistan, along with his wife and son Kazim (Jamal Hashmi), after pledging initially that he would stay back in India to look after its Muslims.
This results in a lot of troubles for Salim, who doesn’t want to leave his home country to settle elsewhere. Moreover, his ageing mother (Badar Begum) doesn’t want to leave the place where the family’s forefathers have been buried.
One shouldn’t think of Salim as egoistic. He loved his country (India) and always hoped for everything to get back to normal. However, Salim and his elder son Baqar Mirza (Abu Siwani) cannot get a loan, or retain employees or win their clients’ trust. This situation makes it next-to-impossible for them to run their shoe-manufacturing business. Moreover, the house that they lived in belonged to Halim, who fled to Pakistan. So, the Indian government had every right to take away their mansion, which it does eventually. Salim’s other son, Sikander Mirza (Farooq Shaikh) can’t get a job, because of his religion.
Salim has a young daughter, Amina Mirza (Gita Siddharth), who falls in love with Kazim, but is left heart-broken after Halim’s family moves back. That’s one of the other important side-plots of the film. ‘Garm Hava’ realistically portrays the condition of a normal, peace-loving, nationalistic Muslim family. Although the circumstances have changed a lot since the painful divide, the film remains very relevant, even today.
To talk about ‘Garam Hava’, one can go thousands of years back in history. A particular community settles in our country over a thousand years ago. For hundreds of years, they adopt and adapt to, the culture of the natives, and give it their own touch at the same time. The two leading communities live peacefully on the same land for eons, until a foreign nation squanders it all away. Yes, pre-partition India equally belonged to the Hindus and the Muslims. It was politics that led to the creation of a separate nation, Pakistan. However, just because a few people want a separate country and government, do you impose it on everyone? Sure, all Muslims did not want to go to Pakistan. They have every reason to call India their ‘home’, as much as people belonging to any other religion do. When you live in the same place for years, it’s really difficult to move on. That’s why; it’s difficult to understand the predicament of the Muslims at that time. Pakistan offered an alien land but a new opportunity; whereas India was always ‘home’ but it had turned hostile.
Imagine a family, which has been living in a country since time immemorial and has its roots, culture, lifestyle imbibed within the nation, suddenly being asked to move to a foreign land?
That’s the Mirza family. The politics of the film is very clear, especially from Salim Mirza’s point-of-view. Your heart goes out to every character in the story, which gets judged just because of his/her religion. There is no negative character in the story. Everybody is just a victim of circumstance, which makes the film look and seem very real. At some point, the film may make you ponder if anything has changed at all in the way that we look at minorities.
We may call ourselves a secular and a democratic country, but the truth of the matter is that there are prejudices even today. It takes a lot of gumption to stand up to the system, and while watching the film, I was glad that Salim Mirza stuck to his guns and did not relent to the political pressure. Along with the millions of other Salim Mirza’s living in India!
There are several elements in ‘Garm Hawa’ – love, nationalism, religion, betrayal, hate, greed and politics among others, and each one of them has been dealt with, finely. The cast of the film is absolutely terrific. Balraj Sahni is the pick of the lot, but everyone’s done a great job. The music of the film deserves special mention. You will fall in love with the instrumental pieces, composed by Aziz Ahmed, Bahadur Khan and Khan Warsi.
What else to write? The film is sheer genius, and you must watch it!