Life ... it is complex to define but simpler to enjoy! I started this blog with the aim to give a platform to my views about life and its nitty-gritties. I hope that through this blog I shall be able to interact with like-minded people who will identify with my way of life and thinking. Often we are short of words to have our feelings be expressed. Through the medium of this blog, I want to let off all my feelings and opinions out for a healthy and interactive debate.
A departing train, people moving to the land of
the ‘other’ and families parting with their loved ones. GaramHawa (1973)
begins with Salim Mirza (BalrajSahni)
dropping his elder sister at the railway station to catch a train that will
take her to Pakistan.
It is the post-partition era during which hordes of Indian Muslims left their
homeland to be a part of the newly created state of Pakistan. The Partition of
undivided India, which led
to the existence of Pakistan,
haunts the national memories of both Indians and Pakistanis to this day. It was
a complex event which has to be understood from many perspectives. To the
viewer of this tragedy, GaramHawa
offers a humane take on the pain and agony of having to leave one’s homeland. Partition
Cinema especially in mainstream Hindi films has undertaken a very violent view
of the event. The process of the division of India has been depicted as full of
violence and massacres of ordinary people from both sides of the border. While
there is no denying this portrayal, cinema has failed to sketch the Partition
as one which forced emotional turmoil on people, thereby playing havoc with
their identities and national loyalties. GaramHawa
is credited with bringing in this face of the Partition to the forefront.
The film is a telling commentary on the journey
of Salim Mirza who is a successful
shoe-maker facing the aftermath of Partition only because he is an Indian
Muslim. Mirza is a firm believer in secular ideals, not willing to desert his
homeland even as most of his relatives choose to flee to Pakistan since
they see it as the land of opportunities for the Muslim community. The film
poignantly tells the story of the belief, commitment and loyalty of Mirza
towards the IndianState. As communal
violence shatters the country and Muslims begin to believe that there is
nothing that the IndianState can give them, Mirza places his trust on the
secular fabric which was the foundation stone of India’s
creation which distinguished itself from the theocratic basis of Pakistan.
The partition was not only about violence and
killings; it was also essentially about human suffering, displacement, loss of
homeland, loss of identity and a constant struggle over national loyalties. It
is very deftly that GaramHawa
examines such intricate issues. The politics behind the partition carried out
by the Britishers as well as the State did not account for those Muslims who
chose to stay back in India.
It impacted their life, their trade and their relations with the majority
community. Mirza’s trade prospects diminish as he fails to procure a bank loan.
He suffers heavy financial losses and is forced to leave his ancestral home
which is taken over by the state. Even at this point of despair and gloom, he
is an eternal optimist who believes that the fighting and destruction in his
‘home’ is going to end one day. The ‘home’ for him, is the nation and he expresses
his grief over the communal fights that are going on in the country. He
believes in Gandhi’s sacrifice for the nation and
says that it will not go down the drain.
There are many scenes in the film which depict
what the Partition meant to ordinary people. For eg: Mirza’s grandson, a five
year old child is curious to know if he will be able to fly kites in Pakistan?
Each time there is a letter from some relatives in Pakistan; Mirza’s wife curiously
wants to know how things are in the land of the ‘other’. Mirza’s daughter Amina
is twice deserted by her prospective suitors who flee to Pakistan while
promising to come back to marry her. This never happens. The question that the
characters in the film keep engaging with is why they should leave their
country. This relates the question to that of identity. Is the Indian Muslim
not Indian enough? Does he have to repeatedly prove his loyalty to the nation-state?
Can he not lead a flourishing life in the Indian state? These and other such
disturbing questions are raised in the film. The members of Mirza’s family are
attached to their conception of being ‘Hindustani’
and they do not wish to leave it at any cost. Yet they are compelled to do so.
Mirza’s ailing grandmother and his qualified but unemployed son are mirrors of
hope which Indian Muslims during the Partition kept alive. While the ailing
grandmother is unwilling to leave her ‘haveli’,
his unemployed son chooses not to go to Pakistan for a job.
Was the Partition really a decision taken in
the interest of people as it was claimed to be? It was a perfect example of a
few elites deciding about the lives of millions consequently uprooting them.
Did Indian really achieve freedom at the dawn of August 15, 1947? This new
found freedom had given rise to the menace of corruption and unemployment. Was
such a freedom desirable?
In every aspect, GaramHawa
shows that the state intervenes in human life. It is the state which decides
upon the division of borders and it is the state which separates two people in
love because one is Indian and the other Pakistani. These identities matter to
the state, not to individuals who want to merely lead a life of dignity. The
Indian state was created on a secular ideology, guaranteeing a respectable life
to people of all faiths, religions and castes. Why does then the Indian state
fail to intervene and instead accuse Mirza of being a Pakistani spy? When Mirza
moves out to search for a makeshift home, he is refused shelter because he is a
Muslim. His son is advised to go to Pakistan
for a job because India
cannot offer anything to him. The state distrusts the Muslim at a time when
they have lost not only their property but also their dignity. Mirza fails to
understand why he is punished for being a Muslim. This can be very well related
to contemporary alienation of Muslims across the globe especially after attacks
on the WorldTradeCenter
on 9/11. Even in the case of Amina, her marital fate is left at the mercy of
the state. In the end, she commits suicide out of desperation. It is the
individual’s pain that is the focus of GaramHawa.
GaramHawawas the first feature from director M.S.
(Mysore Shrivinas) Sathyu. The film was controversial from its inception, as it
was the first film to deal with the human consequences resulting from the 1947
partition of India.
Based on an unpublished story by Marxist activist Ismat Chughtai, the film won the National Award for its
contribution to the cause of ‘national integration’. It made an attempt to
humanize the situation endured by Muslims in North India
who did not wish to move from their homes after the partition. (Kinsey). GaramHawa’s portrayal of the partition trauma is
remembered in the same breath as the representation of the Jewish Holocaust by
Schindler’s List (1993). The reason why the film should be of interest to those
who wish to explore Partition based cinema is because it shifts the focus of
the event from violence to subtle suffering that was forced upon ordinary human
2012). This is precisely the reason why I have chosen to review this
film. Present day partition based Hindi films rely heavily on jingoism,
dramatization of the war spectacle, nationalism, loud and heroic dialogues and
scenes and portraying Pakistan
as the ‘other’. They reduce the partition to a bitter memory of violence which
people have not been able to erase and how they still guided by the events of
1947 in their view of Pakistan.
Most notable are films like Gadar
(2001), Border (1997), Upkar (1965), Maachis (1996), Sarfarosh
(1999), LOC Kargil (2003) and others. Hindi cinema’s static depiction of
India-Pakistan relations is very stale when compared to the refreshing
treatment provided by M.S.Sathyu. GaramHawa
is minus the nationalism, jingoism and dramatic treatment that characterize
India-Pakistan films. Mirza is not the only one who is being asked to leave his
homeland. There were millions of Mirzas in India
as well as in Pakistan
where countless Hindus and Sikhs were displaced and rendered homeless. Thus, GaramHawais thus
the story of human life and resilience brilliantly enacted by BalrajSahni
and other actors in the cast.
the negativity which has been illustrated in many partition based films, this
creation is full of optimism and hope not only on part of the main characters
but of his family members who stay with him and support him till the very end –
his wife and his younger son. In the last sequence of the film, Mirza has given
up all his hope and decides that India is not the place for him to
stay. He packs his bags along with his son and wife. Having lost most of family
to the division of the country, he is now certain that he does not want to lose
the remaining loved ones. He regrets being a refugee in his own country. As he
is all set to leave the country, he sees a crowd of people protesting against
inefficient governance, corruption and unemployment. He decides to join the
crowed with his son and sends his wife back home. He decides to stay back thus
justifying his eternal optimism.
questions the position of the ‘other’. Who is the ‘other’ and how has he becomes
one? How one becomes the ‘other’ in one’s own land? It addresses the position
of all kinds of ‘others’ – the subaltern, the marginalized, the displaced, the
poor or anybody who is refused his rights in his homeland. It is a moving
documentation of the suffering of a family seen through the lens of the most
significant event in the history of India-Pakistan relations – the Partition. Bibliography
(2012, August 12). India-Pakistan Partition - Cinema's forgotten footnote.
Retrieved August 21, 2012, from Sify:
(n.d.). Garam Hawa. Retrieved August 23, 2012, from Film Reference:
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