Reccos: Garm Hava

This review was written by me a few years ago.
Director: M.S Sathyu
Cast: Balraj Sahni, Gita Siddharth, Jalal Agha, Farooque Shaikh, A K Hangal, Jamal Hashmi

Garm Hava, based on an unpublished short story by Ismat Chugtai, is one of the finest movies ever made in India. It deals with the trials and tribulations of an Indian Muslim family during the post partition years. Salim Mirza (Balraj Sahni), an ever optimistic businessman, has to face a lot of difficulties, trying to keep his shoemaking business afloat in the wake of all the distrust and angst caused by partition. His relatives and family members start migrating to Pakistan. His ancestral house is taken over by the custodian, his young daughter’s fiance is arrested and deported to Pakistan and his son cannot find a job and is told to migrate to Pakistan. He clings on to hope that things will get better but a personal tragedy and all the humiliation meted out to him deal a final death blow to his optimism. Will he too move to Pakistan or stay back and fight it out is what the movie is about.

Some of the scenes remain in your mind long after watching the movie like the scene which shows Salim’s elder brother giving a speech in a rally that “even if all muslims leave India he would still be in India” and the scene immediately after that or the scene where Salim Mirza’s mother does not want to leave the haveli and hides in a woodshed or the scene where her whole life revolves before her eyes just before her death or the scene where Amina(Gita Siddharth) finally gives in to Jamal Agha’s protestations of love or the scene where Amina finds out that Shamshad (Jamal Agha) is getting married to another girl. The only thing a little unsettling for the average audience would be the abstract ending.

Balraj Sahni is brilliant as Salim Mirza. This is arguably his best performance. He captures the resilience, optimism and the never give up spirit so well. Gita Siddharth is brilliant as the daughter on whom circumstances play a cruel joke. Jalal Agha, Farooque Shaikh, A K Hangal, Dinanath Zutshi and Jamal Hashmi all deliver very good performances.

Kaifi Azmi has adapted the story well. His dialogues and the couplets like “Gita ki na koi sunta na Quran ki sunta… (No one heeds the Gita, no one heeds the Koran)” are very good. There are no songs except for one qawwali by Ustad Bahadur Khan, beautifully shot at the Tomb of Salim Chishti. The Taj Mahal scenes are very beautiful too.

M S Sathyu’s direction is brilliant. He wonderfully captures the Muslim culture. The scenes where Balraj and Farooque Shaikh talk into a camera are brilliantly done. The film is filled with one heart wrenching scene after another. The movie shows how an average family is affected by a big thing like partition.

This film was nominated for the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival, 1974. It won the Filmfare Awards for Best Dialogue (Kaifi Azmi), Best Screenplay (Kaifi Azmi & Shama Zaidi) and Best Story (Ismat Chugtai & Kaifi Azmi). It also won the National Award for the best film on National Integration (1974) and was India’s official entry for the Oscars. Garm Hava is the best movie dealing with the aftermath of partition and is a movie that every Indian and Pakistani should watch.

Rating: 4.5 / 5 (Brilliant)

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    sputnik 8 years ago

    From the official website

    ‘I do not have the language to describe the beautiful, painful sensitivity of the visuals and the sounds of ‘Garm Hava’. And though it is painful, it has a raw strength, too. If Ghalib was the singer of political gloom after 1857, this film is the chronicle of robust hope after 1947.

    – Film Fare

    …in many ways Garm Hava is the most important film made since independence. Never before has the camera tackled one of the most sensitive issues of our time, the communal situation, with such courage and incisiveness.

    – Times Of India.

    “Garm Hava” is the most courageous piece of political cinema to be seen here for a long time.

    – Hindustan Times.

    It is a film which sets you thinking and this can be said of very few films made in this country. “Garm Hava” is one of the most important films of our times. It is not an intellectual film. There is nothing esoteric about it. But it is a filmic experience of great power.

    – The Indian Express.

    “Garm Hava” is one of the most important films to be made in recent months in this country – in fact, one of the most significant movies ever. It is a film with no false notes, no melodramas, no over-playing and no gimmicks, but a film which is narrated in an-off-the cuff style.

    – The Sunday Standard.

    Sathyu achieves world class with this film. Every actor and actress has been cast in the right role and there is nothing that is out of place. Blaraj has left this film as a memorial to us and no sensitive personw ill fail to realie the effort that has gone in making this film. It is beautiful. Go, see it to believe that India can make such films.

    – Film World.

    It is a bold attempt to break out of the circle formation of the Indian cinema. A circle of conventional love, cheap comedy and pointless violence. Here is a sensitive theme handled with courage and imagination, a bold experiement for whicht eh producers and directors deserves kudos. The highly urduised dialogue is sharp and the photography is slick. There is harldy a dull moment in the entire sequence…

    – Economic Times.’

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