Garm Hava

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Garam Hava
Garm Hava.jpg
Directed by M. S. Sathyu
Produced by Abu Siwani
Ishan Arya
M. S. Sathyu
Written by Kaifi Azmi
Shama Zaidi
Story by Ismat Chughtai
Starring Balraj Sahni
Farooq Shaikh
Dinanath Zutshi
Badar Begum
Geeta Siddharth
Shaukat Kaifi
A. K. Hangal
Music by Bahadur Khan
Kaifi Azmi (lyrics)
Cinematography Ishan Arya
Edited by S. Chakravarty
Release date
  • 1973 (1973)
Running time
146 minutes
Country India
Language Hindi/Urdu
Budget 1 million (US$16,000)

Garam Hava (Hindi: गर्म हवा; translation: Hot Winds or Scorching Winds)[1] is a 1973 Urdu drama film directed by M. S. Sathyu, with Balraj Sahni as the lead. It was written by Kaifi Azmi and Shama Zaidi, based on an unpublished short story by noted Urdu writer Ismat Chughtai. The film score was given by noted classical musician Ustad Bahadur Khan, with lyrics by Kaifi Azmi, it also featured a qawwali composed and performed by Aziz Ahmed Khan Warsi and his Warsi Brothers troupe.

Set in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, the film deals with the plight of a North Indian Muslim businessman and his family, in the period post partition of India in 1947. In the grim months, after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, film's protagonist and patriarch of the family Salim Mirza, deals with the dilemma of whether to move to Pakistan as many of his relatives or stay back. The film details the slow disintegration of his family, and is one of the most poignant films made on India's partition.[2][3] It remains one of the few serious films dealing with the post-Partition plight of Muslims in India.[4][5]

It is often credited with pioneering a new wave of Art cinema movement in Hindi Cinema, and alongside a film from another debutant film director, Shyam Benegal, Ankur (1973), are considered landmarks of Hindi Parallel Cinema which had already started flourishing in other parts of India in Bengal notably by Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak as well as in Kerala. The movie also launched the career of actor, Farooq Shaikh, and also marked the end of Balraj Sahni's film career, who died before its release. It was India's official entry to the Academy Award's Best Foreign Film category, nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, won a National Film Award and three Filmfare Awards. In 2005, Indiatimes Movies ranked the movie amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films.[2]


The Mirzas are a Muslim family living in a large ancestral house and running a shoe manufacturing business in the city of Agra in the United Provinces of northern India (now the state of Uttar Pradesh). The story begins in the immediate aftermath of India's independence and the partition of India in 1947. The family is headed by two brothers; Salim (Balraj Sahni), who heads the family business, and his elder brother Halim, who is mainly engaged in politics and is a major leader in the provincial branch of the All India Muslim League, which led the demand for the creation of a separate Muslim state of Pakistan. Salim has two sons, the elder Baqar, who helps him in the business, and Sikander (Farooq Shaikh), who is a young student. Halim's son Kazim is engaged to Salim's daughter, Amina. Although he had publicly promised to stay in India for the sake of its Muslims, Halim later decides to quietly emigrate to Pakistan with his wife and son, believing that there was no future for Muslims in India. Salim resists the notion of moving, believing that peace and harmony would return soon, besides which, he has to care for their ageing mother, who refuses to leave the house of her forefathers. This puts Kazim and Amina's marriage plans on hold, although Kazim promises to return soon to marry her. Halim's stealthy migration affects Salim's standing in the community. In the aftermath of partition, the sudden migration of many Muslims from Agra left banks and other lenders deeply reluctant to lend money to Muslim businessmen like Salim Mirza, who had previously been held in high esteem, over fears that they would leave the country without repaying the loan. Unable to raise capital to finance production, Salim Mirza's business suffers. Salim Mirza's brother-in-law, formerly a League supporter, now joins the ruling Indian National Congress in an attempt to get ahead in independent India while his son Shamshad unsuccessfully woos Amina, who is still devoted to Kazim and hopeful of his return.

Halim's migration to Pakistan makes the family home an "evacuee property" as the house is in Halim's name and Halim did not transfer it to Salim Mirza. The Indian government mandates the take over of the house, forcing Salim Mirza's family to move out of their ancestral home, which is very hard on Mirza's aged mother. Salim's wife blames him for not raising this issue with his brother Halim before he left for Pakistan. Mirza resists his wife's hints that they also move to Pakistan and his elder son's calls for modernising the family business. Mirza finds it difficult to rent a house, facing discrimination owing to his religion and fears that a Muslim family would skip out on rent if they decided to leave for Pakistan. He finally succeeds in finding a smaller house to rent, but his business is failing and despite his son's exhorting, refuses to change with the times, believing that Allah would protect them. Salim Mirza's passiveness and disconnection from the outside world leaves his wife and son frustrated. The Mirza family house is bought by a close business associate, Ajmani, (A.K. Hangal) who respects Mirza and tries to help him. Despite growing troubles, the family is briefly buoyed by Sikander's graduation from college.

Amina and her family have almost given up on her marrying Kazim after Halim breaks his promise to return soon from Pakistan. Kazim returns on his own, and reveals that his father had become opposed to his marrying Amina, preferring that he marry the daughter of a Pakistani politician. Having received a scholarship from the Government of Pakistan to study in Canada, Kazim desires to marry Amina before he leaves, but before the marriage can take place, he is arrested by police and repatriated to Pakistan for travelling without a passport and not registering at the police station, as is required of all citizens of Pakistan. Amina is heart-broken, and finally accepts Shamshad's courtship. Sikander undergoes a long string of unsuccessful job interviews, where the interviewers repeatedly suggest that he would have better luck in Pakistan. Sikander and his group of friends become disillusioned and start an agitation against unemployment and discrimination, but Salim prohibits Sikander from taking part. Despite his political connections, Salim Mirza's brother-in-law ends up in debt over shady business practices and decides to flee to Pakistan. Amina again faces the prospect of losing her lover, but Shamshad promises to return and not leave her like Kazim. Salim Mirza's reluctance to modernise and cultivate ties with the newly formed shoemakers union results in his business not receiving patronage and consequently failing. Disillusioned, his son Baqar decides to migrate to Pakistan with his son and wife. Salim's aged mother suffers a stroke, and through his friend, Salim is able to bring his mother to her beloved house for a final visit, where she dies. While Salim is travelling in a horse-drawn carriage, the carriage driver, a Muslim, gets into an accident and a squabble with other locals. The situation deteriorates into a riot, and Salim is hit by a stone and suffers injuries. With his business and elder son gone, Salim begins to work as a humble shoemaker to make a living. Shamshad's mother returns from Pakistan for a visit, leading Amina and her mother to think that Shamshad would also come soon and their marriage would take place. However, Shamshad's mother merely takes advantage of Salim Mirza's connections to release some of her husband's money, and reveals that Shamshad's marriage has been arranged with the daughter of a well-connected Pakistani family. Shattered with this second betrayal, Amina commits suicide, which devastates the whole family.

Amidst these problems, Salim Mirza is investigated by the police on charges of espionage over his sending plans of their former property to his brother in Karachi, Pakistan. Although acquitted by the court, Mirza is shunned in public and faces a humiliating whisper campaign. Mirza's long aversion to leaving India finally breaks down and he decides in anger to leave for Pakistan. Sikander opposes the idea, arguing that they should not run away from India, but fight against the odds for the betterment of the whole nation, but Salim decides to leave anyway. However, as the family is travelling towards the railway station, they encounter a large crowd of protestors marching against unemployment and discrimination, which Sikander had planned to join. Sikander's friends call out to him, and Salim encourages him to join the protestors. Instructing the carriage driver to take his wife back to their house, and the film ends as Salim Mirza himself joins the protest, ending his isolation from the new reality.


Balraj Sahni as Salim Mirza


The film was based on an unpublished short story by writer-screenwriter Ismat Chughtai and later adapted by Kaifi Azmi and Shama Zaidi.[6] Chugtai narrated the story to Sathyu and his wife Zaidi, deriving from the struggles of her own relatives during the Partition before some of them migrated for Pakistan. While developing the screenplay, poet-lyricist Azmi added his own experiences of Agra and the local leather industry. Later, he also wrote in the dialogues.[7]

The film was shot in location in the city of Agra, with scenes of Fatehpur Sikri as well. Due to repeated local protests owing to its controversial theme, a fake second unit with unloaded cameras were sent to various locations to divert attention from film's actual locations. As the film's commercial producers had early on backed out fearing public and governmental backlash, and 'Film Finance Corporation' (FFC), now National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), stepped in later with a funding of Rs 250,000. Sathyu borrowed the rest 750,000 of the budget from friends.[8][9] The film was co-produced and shot by Ishan Arya, who after making ad film made his feature film debut, using an Arriflex camera, loaned by Homi Sethna, Sathyu's friend. As Sathyu couldn't afford recording equipment, the film was shot silent, and the location sounds and voices were dubbed in post-production. Shama Zaidi also doubled up as the costume and production designer.[9]

Sathyu had long been associated with leftist Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), thus most roles in the film were played by stage actors from IPTA troupes in Delhi, Mumbai and Agra. The role of family patriarch, Salim Mirza was played by Balraj Sahni, also known to Sathyu through IPTA, and for whom this was to be his last important film role, and according to many his finest performance.[10] The role of his wife was played by Shaukat Azmi, wife of film's writer Kaifi Azmi, and also associated with IPTA. Farooq Shaikh, a law student in Mumbai, till then had done small roles in IPTA plays, made his film debut with the role of Sikandar.[9] The role of Balraj Sahni's mother was first offered to noted singer Begum Akhtar which she refused,[11] later Badar Begum played the role. The locale of Mirza mansion was an old haveli of R S Lal Mathur in Peepal Mandi who helped the whole unit throughout the shooting. Mathur helped Sathyu find Badar Begum in a city brothel. Badar Begum was then in her 70s and almost blind due to cataract. However, when she was sixteen years old, she ran away to Bombay to work in Hindi films, but soon ran out of money and only managed to get work as an extra in a Wadia Movietone film. She used the money to return to Agra, eventually ended up in the red-light area of the city and ran a brothel in the area. Her voice was later dubbed in by actress Dina Pathak.[7][9] Film's lead, Balraj Sahni however died the day after he finished dubbing for the film.[12] The soundtrack included a qawwali "Maula Salim Chishti" by Aziz Ahmed Khan Warsi, of Warsi Brothers.[13]

Themes and allusions[edit]

The title alludes to the scorching winds of communalism, political bigotry and intolerance, that blew away humanity and conscience from across North-India in the years after the partition of India in 1947, and especially after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi to the which the film opens. In its prologue, poet Kaifi Azmi narrates a couplet summing up the theme, "Geeta ki koi sunta na Koran ki sunta, hairan sa eemaan vahan bhi tha yahan bhi" (Nobody listens to Gita or Quran, shocked conscience was here as well as there.)[6] Just like his ageing mother is reluctant to leave the ancestral haveli where she came a young bride, her son Salim Mirza, the protagonist is also holding on to his faith in new India. Despite the fact, his shoe manufacturing business is suffering in the new communally charged environment, and the family had to sell off their haveli to move into a rented house. Yet, he struggles to keep his faith in secularism and idealism alive, along with his optimistic son.[6]

Release and reception[edit]

Prior to its release the film was held by Central Board of India, for eight months, fearing communal unrest, but film's director persisted and showed it to government officials, leaders and journalists. Finally the film was released to both critical and commercial success.[14]

The film first opened at two theatres Sagar and Sangeeth in Bangalore. Positive response at these theatres paved way for a subsequent nationwide release.[15] The Indian premiere was held at Regal Cinema in Colaba, Mumbai in April 1974. However, prior to this Bal Thackeray, head of Shiva Sena had threatened to burn down the cinema, if the premier was allowed, calling it 'pro-Muslim' and 'anti-India' film. On the day of the premiere, Thackeray was persuaded to attend a special screening of the film in the afternoon, and allowed the film to be screened. Subsequently, the film had a limited pan-India release.[12][16] Ironically, in the 1974 National Film Awards, it was awarded the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration.

Today it is noted for its sensitive handling of the controversial issue, dealt with in only a few Indian films,[1] like Kartar Singh (1959) (Pakistani film),[17] Manmohan Desai's Chhalia (1960), Yash Chopra's Dharmputra (1961), Govind Nihalani's Tamas (1986), Pamela Rooks' Train to Pakistan (1998), Manoj Punj's Shaheed-e-Mohabbat Boota Singh (1999) and Chandra Prakash Dwivedi's Pinjar (2003).

Restoration and re-release[edit]

In 2009, a privately funded restoration work of the film started at Cameo Studios in Pune.[18] Subsequently, the restoration budget climbed to over Rs 10 million, and restoration work was done by Filmlab, Mumbai (Mr. Ujwal Nirgudkar) and the sound quality enhancement by Deluxe Laboratories in Los Angeles, US.[9] The restoration process, which included restoration of original soundtrack took over three years to complete and the print was re-released on 14 November 2014 across 70 screens in eight metro cities in India.[13][19]


Academy Awards[edit]

Cannes Film Festival[edit]

National Film Awards[edit]

Filmfare Awards[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Review Garm Hava
  2. ^ a b 25 Must See Bollywood Movies Indiatimes, 3 October 2005.
  3. ^ SAI Film Series – 2007 Southern Asia Institute, Columbia University.
  4. ^ Secularism and Popular Cinema:Shyam Benegal The Crisis of Secularism in India: Gandhi, Ambedkar, and the ethics of communal representation, by Anuradha Dingwaney Needham, Rajeswari Sunder Rajan. Duke University Press, 2007. ISBN 0-8223-3846-7. page 234-235.
  5. ^ Our Films, Their Films, by Satyajit Ray, Orient Longman, 2005. ISBN 81-250-1565-5.Page 100-102.
  6. ^ a b c "Blowin' in the wind". The Hindu. 19 August 2013. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Back with the wind". The Hindu. 14 November 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  8. ^ Garm Hava Review
  9. ^ a b c d e "Back Story: Separate lives". Mint. 27 July 2012. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  10. ^ Balraj Sahni – Profile
  11. ^ "What a life: Begum Akhtar's reality was much wilder than fiction". Mint. 7 November 2008. 
  12. ^ a b Satyen K Bordoloi (23 November 2012). "The filmmakers who stood up to Thackeray, and won!". Movies. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Sandhya Soman (14 November 2014). "Iconic 'Garam Hawa' all set to hit theatres today in its restored glory". The Times of India. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  14. ^ Review Garm Hava, 1973
  15. ^ "EVERYTHING you should know about Garm Hava". movies. 11 November 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  16. ^ Khajane, Muralidhara (13 November 2014). "'Garam Hava' to hit screens after four decades – The Hindu". Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  17. ^ Kartar Singh – Review
  18. ^ "Play it again". Indian Express. 30 June 2009. 
  19. ^ Khajane, Muralidhara (13 November 2014). "Garam Hawa wafts into theatres again". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  20. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  21. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Garam Hawa". Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
  22. ^ "21st National Film Awards" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  23. ^ "Best Screenplay Award". Filmfare Award Official Listings, Indiatimes. Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 

External links[edit]