|Taksin hua mulk toh dil ho gaye tukde; Har seene mein Toofan, wahan bhi tha yahan bhiHar ghar mein chita jalti thi, lehraate thai sholay; Har Shahar mein shmashan, wahan bhi tha yahan bhiGeeta ki koi na sunta, na koi quran ki sunta; Hairan sa imaan, wahan bhi tha yahan bhi-Kaifi Azmi(Opening lines of the movie)||Translated:|
The land is divided, lives are shattered; Storm rages in every heart; it’s the same here or thereFuneral pyres in every home, the flames mount higher; Every city is deserted, it’s the same here or thereNo one heeds the Gital, no one heeds the Koran; Faith has lost all meaning; it’s the same here or there
This year we celebrate our 75th year of Independence from British Colonial Rule. It was a great end to the 190 year long and difficult raj but came with the unprecedented Partition of India (exclusively the creation of Pakistan). Garam Hawa is a 1973 movie that delves into the social implications of the partition, in particular the plight and problems faced by each of the family members by analysing the “scorching winds” of communalism and political bias. It is also considered a landmark film of Indian Parallel cinema, i.e. movies that were not a part of commercial cinema.
The film is picturised in the post partition world, not too long after Mahatma Gandhi’s assasination. It revolves around a wealthy muslim family living in Agra – the Mirzas. The patriarch of the family and protagonist Salim Mirza runs a shoe making business handed down by his father, with a reputation for being one of the best in North India. His older brother Halim, a known politician and owner of his father’s haveli is a leader of the All India Muslim League, who vows to fight for Muslim rights and to never leave India. Salim’s eldest son, Baqar, helps him run the business; the younger son, Sikander, is a student; and his daughter Amina is set to be married to Halim’s only son, Kazim. The other women in the family are Salim’s mother and Salim’s wife Jamila.
The family begins facing difficulties in society: given the economic state of broken India, unemployment was already at a high, rendering Kazim at a further disadvantage due to his religion. there were rising tensions between the Indian communities and Halim began to consider leaving for Pakistan in search for a better life- in complete contradiction to what he encouraged as a political leader. However, Salim wanted to remain in the land of his ancestors, and this led to the initial breaking point for the Mirza family. Due to the homeowner (Halim) leaving the country, the government would mark the house as an “evacuee’s property”, giving the Mirza’s no legal authority over it. In the following scenes, we witness the discrimination that Salim encounters, in addition to the fears that they might have to abandon their country as he hunts for houses. Salim holds out hope and finally finds a much smaller home for them.
I was glued to the screen as I watched them leave their haveli, Amina and Sikander fighting over having to share a bedroom, Jamila cursing at Salim for not getting the house to his name, but more than anything, the terrible impact that it had on the grandmother. She is seen hiding under a counter as the family is set to depart and her subsequent dialogue rings through my head,
“Chod de mujhe, yahi pe marne de. Qayamat ke din, kya jawab doongi unko.” she cries, referring to her dead husband. She dies soon after.
Salim faces new problems everyday at his shoe factory. He is unable to get any orders or sell any product in spite of their superior quality. With the factory barely running, he once again hunts for loans from people he could once rely on, but is turned away. He eventually gets accused of being a spy for Pakistan and is apprehended, while the people burn his factory. At this point, his son Baqar decides that he’s had enough – his father never listened to his request to join with the shoemaker’s council and endorse their “modern” or “corrupt” ways, and leaves for Pakistan with his wife and son.
Amina’s story revolves around her pursuit for love and a husband. Her first choice and favoured marriage to Kazim is stopped when Halim decides to leave the country, but the two continue to hold out hope for their marriage. When Kazim finally returns, he is arrested and deported days before the wedding for not proclaiming his arrival in the country. Later on in the film Amina passes up the desire to marry Kazim and looks to marry her sister-in-law’s brother, Shamshad. Both families are prepared for this marriage until she is once again separated from her lover as he leaves for Pakistan. She is left distraught and commits suicide in another heartbreaking scene.
At this point, all that is left of the Mirza empire is Salim, his wife and their son. Seeing no other alternative, Salim ultimately decides that it’s time to settle in a more hospitable country – Pakistan. Sikander urges his father to stay on and fight but Salim’s strength and courage die with Amina. The final scene is the most impactful, where their tonga is blocked off by a huge rally of Indians – Hindu and Muslim alike – speaking out against the political, economical and religious climate of their country. Salim’s convictions are reborn as he joins the march, saying,
I understand the film as being similar to plucking flowers off a bush. The flowers are the Mirza family members, getting picked off one by one due to one reason or another. It was portrayed as a gradual descent as they navigated through their loneliness and helplessness. This was depicted through one prominent scene – the dinner. The movie begins with a full 10 member household eating and discussing the troubles of the partition, and is repeated throughout but with fewer and fewer members – beautifully done. The bush or roots of the tale lie in Gandhi’s belief in secularism and idealism that resonates with the ones who are discriminated against or downtrodden.