garm hava


This haveli is ours. I had given birth to only two sons, where did this third haqdar (claimant) come from?” In this wonderful and ironic moment, by asserting a notion of collective, familial ownership, the grandmother’s voice denaturalizes capitalist state modernity and rationality: her interrogation throws into relief the violence of the concept of private property ownership deployed by discriminatory actors of the modern nation-state to simultaneously displace some, and rehabilitate others, based on ethnic difference.

The Mirza family’s displacement and attendant minoritization is effectively suggested through the framing of shots; a large number of shots are framed by doors and windows which enclose increasingly smaller spaces. Forced out of their spacious haveli, the Mirzas move to a much smaller, rented home. The ever-narrowing spaces we witness through the frames of doors and windows evoke the material and psychic process of minoritization and the forced squeezing into ever-smaller livable spaces of being that the Mirzas experience in their everyday life–at work, among friends, in the city. In their new home, the small roof with bars across it–through which the spectator witnesses the conflicted conversations about migrating to Pakistan between Salim Mirza and his wife–reinforce the sense of their entrapment and victimization. 

–“Things Fall Apart: Minoritization and Muslims in the Postcolonial Art Film” Violent Belongings: Partition, Gender and National Culture in Postcolonial India 


Garm Hava, Scorching Winds (1973)

The gendered effects of Partition, and particularly the place of Muslim  women in the new nations, are critical to any discussion of Garam Hawa. Salim Mirza’s wife continually urges him to leave for Pakistan, as she witnesses the ethnic discrimination faced by her husband and son: their ancestral business in leather shoe making fails, their factory is burned down, and her son is denied all the jobs for which he interviews. Her pleas are ignored, and she becomes a mute spectator to the multiple forms of disenfranchisement experienced by them.

Further, Salim Mirza’s daughter Amina is heartbroken when her cousin and fiancee Kazim is taken to Pakistan by his father. Kazim manages to steal back to Agra to marry Amina; however, just as the wedding festivities are on, he is arrested and escorted back to the border because he unknowingly fails to register with the police when he arrives. Thus, although he had been an Indian resident and citizen all his life, his few months across the border in Pakistan transform him into a Pakistani citizen and an “illegal alien” in his own ancestral home. Amina’s dreams of marriage are thwarted; though she gives in, after much grief, to another arduous suitor, Shamshad’s, proposal of marriage. Shamshad too is forced to go to Pakistan. For the second time, Amina’s hopes for marital intimacy are foreclosed and she sees Shamshad off at the train station, much as her father had seen others off. When she finds out later that in spite of his promises to return, he has married someone else in Pakistan, she is devastated and commits suicide.

In this filmic narrative both of these Muslim female characters cannot constitute national and familial belongings as Indians. Further, Amina’s grandmother’s death reinforces the generational, gendered loss of female agency: in a very moving scene, the matriarch is taken to her ancestral home, the large haveli, for one last time as she is dying. The sequence shows Salim carrying her into the haveli from a tonga (carriage), thus underscoring her physical frailty and helplessness.

Violent Belongings: Partition, Gender, and National Culture in Postcolonial India by Kavita Daiya

LISTENall life’s pleasures, which are also griefs

This is an ongoing collection of interestingly sequenced, written, and performed songs from mostly social/historical films I’ve watched. Auteurs include Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Kamal Swaroop, Bimal Roy, and Tapan Sinha among others and the forms of those songs have various influences like Baul music, Rabindra sangeet, folk music, ghazals, Hindustani classical, Sufi, and the devotional bhajan. I just have found it worth noting how they have been used in even films that have been touted as “realistic” and on par with the more instrumental and classically inclined choices of cinema from western canon.

  1. o nodi re (neel akasher neechey, 1958)
  2. majhi yeh toh majdhar hai (nagarik, 1952)
  3. hawa hai (hun hunshi hunshilal, 1992)
  4. kitna badal gaya insaan (nastik, 1954)
  5. papiha re (kismet, 1942)
  6. duniya kisi ke pyar mein (jaag utha insan, 1966)
  7. it’s like a sea baby (om dar-b-dar, 1988)
  8. majhi tor naam jani na (meghe dhaka tare, 1960)
  9. nazar lagi raja (the other song, 2009)
  10. piya ke aavan ki (kshudhita pashan, 1960)
  11. ab na zubaan pe taala dalo (dharti ke lal, 1946)
  12. koto dur aar koto dur (marutirtha hinglaj, 1959)
  13. lagta nahi hai dil (lal qila, 1960)
  14. charu upset (charulata, 1964)
  15. na jaan re (biraj bahu, 1954)
  16. sar jo tera chakraye (pyaasa, 1957)
  17. anandamoi’s husband’s song (apanjan, 1968)
  18. tu pyar ka sagar hai (seema, 1955)
  19. ghata ghanaghor ghor (tansen, 1943)
  20. aaj kaun gali gayo sham (pakeezah, 1976)
  21. yeh kaun aaj aaya (nartaki, 1940)
  22. bablu babylon se (om dar-b-dar, 1988)
  23. katha suno re logon (bombay our city, 1985)
  24. o majhi mere sajan (bandini, 1963)
  25. aaj jyotsna raate (komal gandhar, 1961)
  26. o rasiya (daasi, 1944)
  27. akash bhora surjo tara (meghe dhaka tare, 1960)
  28. lo har cheez lelo (ab dilli door nahin, 1957)
  29. garba song (mirch masala, 1987)
  30. maula salim chishti (garm hava, 1974)

One of the great things about having only Doordarshan and BTV at home as an early 90s kid is that I got to watch Garm Hava in bits and pieces over several years. It’s being re-released again, soon, I hear. Given the barrage of absolute garbage that Bollywood has produced over the years, which dominates representations of Pakistan, the Pakistan movement, Partition and Indian Muslims, not just in film but also in everyday language (Gadar, VeerZara, Refugee, those Kargil films, Ishaqzaade, D-Day, those Bhagat Singh films, on and on and on and on), Garm Hava is a welcome humanist corrective.