Friday, April 6, 2012

Garam Hawa, 1947 Earth: Mirrors kept on the two sides of pain

In Garam Hawa, the train starts from Delhi and goes to Lahore. In 1947 Earth, the train starts from Lahore and goes to Delhi...

Macro. Micro. Two views of the same world. And within each view, multiple perspectives. And within each perspectives, multiple possibilities with multiple outcomes. The world we live in is utterly complex, and yet the basic human emotions and needs are as simple as they come. The need for acceptance, the need for association, but above all the need to live and breathe in a safe environment that gives them the freedom to live their life the way they want to. Human rights and legislative rights given to citizens of any country wish to fulfill the same aforesaid needs and ensure that each and every human being is in full control of his own story. Story? Yes story. For somebody’s reality is someone else’s fiction. So essentially we live in a world full of interlinked stories that cross path more often than once. And while we are too busy taking care of our own lives, there are people who are doing their indirectly meddling in our affairs. The lawmakers, the leaders, the politicians, the influencers, the media. It has been the same since the start of time. As human beings evolved from being solo food gatherers to creatures who hunted in groups, there were always certain few who emerged more powerful and more influential than others. Gradually they started moving slightly away from the rest of the pack, until they became truly absolute. Since then, the decisions are made by some and accepted by the others. On face value. Yes, there have been revolts. Every now and then the masses have ignited and tried to take the reins of their destiny in their own hands. Some of these revolts have been stifled. A tiny few have succeeded. But even the ones that succeeded have done nothing but create a new set of leaders with new order, new regime, new procedures, but more or less the same results.

Take a look at Mahabharata. Two sets of cousins- the most powerful ones in Jambudvipa (As India was called then), fought for a piece of land. But they were not the only ones who fought and won and lost. With them fought eleven other great kings of India. And with them fought their seventeen different armies. And within each army fought a thousand soldiers. All for what? For deciding who will assume the sole ownership of Hastinapur. Or, to give it a higher purpose as many do- for dharma. Whose dharma? Now when we look back and read the great epic we get lost in the story of revenge and the motivations, learnings, and actions of the Pandavas aided by the God himself- Krishna. But who talks about the innumerable faces that fought the battle? Didn’t all of them have a story of their own? Yes, they did.

Fast forward to 1947. Was it any different from Mahabharata? Yes of course there are many distinctions that can be made; but in essence it was a war declared at the top and fought by the masses. In the process causing nothing but loss. For most, the loss was beyond the tangible. It was beyond the loss of property and life of loved ones. It was nothing less than a complete loss of identity. The human in every human being was replaced by a label- the label of religion. And this label was indicated by the names they carried. So countless people had no option but to change their names. To change their entire identity. To give a new meaning to their meaningless existence. And to serve what purpose? To honor the decision made for them at the top by the leaders. But did they have the option? No. Could they have had the option? No they couldn’t have…
Law and order cannot be enforced without having a stable leadership taking charge of the society. And in the failure of the leadership in 1947, this fact emerged most glaringly. Human beings are no different from the animals of the jungle. In the Jungle there is no leadership- the larger fish eats the smaller one. It is survival of the fittest. Post the 1947 decision to divide India, the most anguished ones became the fittest. Law and order went for a toss. The world became a jungle. There were killings all around. The bestiality in some of the acts was basic, yet almost creative. A man was killed by just ripping him apart. Ripping him apart? The phrase got its literal celebration. The women were raped and molested in the most brutal ways possible. Humanity was reveling in its newfound freedom. The freedom to express, the freedom to revenge. Who ignited the flames? God knows (If there is God, that is).


Deepa Mehta’s 1947 Earth and Kaifi Azmi’s Garam Hawa are two Hindi films that are based on incidents preceding and succeeding the horrific partition of India. Both the movies take a completely different view of the situation. In some ways, both the movies are like mirror images of one another. And both the movies have a narrative that can be viewed in two perspectives. Macro and micro. There was the larger picture that was common to all. But there were millions of people whose life got affected in a million different ways. While Garam Hawa tells the story of a rich capitalist Muslim trying not to leave India for Pakistan post the partition, 1947 Earth looks at the picture from the other side- how Sikhs and Hindus had to leave Pakistan for India post the partition abandoning their homes, their hopes, and their lives. While Garam Hawa starts from six months after August 1947, 1947 Earth begins six months before that date. While Garam Hawa talks about a family, 1947 Earth talks about a family to be. While Garam Hawa is a story of resignation to fate, 1947 Earth is the story of taking charge of fate- even if it is in the most horrific manner possible. And while Garam Hawa ends on an optimistic note, 1947 Earth ends in the cruelest way possible.

Both are extremely disturbing to see, and yet are a must watch for every Indian my age. They should not be seen as movies. They are like honest recounting of the tales that are our very own. We can never experience what our forefathers did. And we should thank God for that (If there is God, that is). But we deserve to know on what foundation our country stands today. The greatest of structures need the most solid foundations to become great. But for us the challenge lies in making a great nation on a foundation that is full of cracks and that got corroded by blood. The Blood of our own forefathers. The blood that was the result of pain. Pain that was (or rather is) is both figurative and literal. Pain that has been looked at by these two honest artistic efforts like mirrors kept on both sides. 


13 comments:

  1. Haven't seen Garam Hawa, but 1947: Earth is fantastic - I also read Ice Candy Man after watching that. The film is very similar to the book, and both seemed hauntingly familiar to me because of my mother's stories of Partition. Her family lived in Amritsar at the time and my Nana worked in Lahore. For them, things were a bit like it was for the 'main' family in the film/book: not at risk themselves, since they were neither Hindu nor Muslim - we're Christians. But my mother still remembers the carnage they saw around them, including the trains laden with dead bodies. That particular scene in 1947: Earth reall shook me up.

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  2. Yes, your family's situation certainly seems quite similar to the Parsi family's in the film. Can understand why that particular scene would have shook you up. The other scene when Aamir and every one else witness the riots from his terrace is another really disturbing one. Aamir has done that scene so spectacularly. His performance in Earth is by far his best in my opinion.

    And please do watch Garam Hawa. Would love to see it on your blog soon!

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  3. Both films were fantastic. In different ways. I'm not a great fan of Deepa Mehta, but Bapsi Sidhwa had great input into 1947 Earth, and saw to it that it didn't deviate much from the book. I agree with you that it was one of Aamir's finest performances.

    I found both disturbing. Have you seen Train to Pakistan? One more film on the Partition - this time from a Sikh point of view. Beautiful film. Simply beautiful. Or even Pinjar? It was based on Amrita Pritam's novel by the same name, and was horrifying to watch - very, very well-made film, and one of Urmila's finest performances. That girl was wasted in commercial cinema!

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    1. I am in the process of reading Khushwant Singh's Train to Pakistan- have just started it actually- is the film based on the same book? No haven't seen Pinjar- have seen bits on TV- but I will watch it ASAP now that you have reminded me of it.

      On Urmila- well she started with commercial stuff- got fame through that route so I guess she had every reason to remain a mainstream actress. But she has tried unconventional cinema every now and then- maybe her association with RGV saw to that. But ya I agree she could have managed her career a lot better, especially at the later stages- at this stage she is doing films like Karzzzzz! I have heard even her film Banaras is very good.

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  4. Piyush, yes, the film is based on Khushwant Singh's book.

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    1. Thanks. I will keep reading the book on hold then and watch the movie first!

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  5. Can 11-13 year old kids watch garam hawa? it has been restored and re-released in India as garm hava.

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    1. Yes they can. I mean there is no violence or brutality as such, if that is what you mean to ask. However a 11-13 year old would most probably be bored by the proceedings and may not be able to appreciate the film as the context would be lost on him.

      Enjoy!

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  6. Just saw the restored Garam Hawa. and was really glad that it is finally available for viewing. An absolute must-watch if you are interested in the subject of Partition. An added bonus is the depiction of the fantastic monuments in Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. The way Balraj Sahni portrays the central character - with quite dignity but with desperation lapping at the edges - is awesome. What an actor!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your views :) Am in absolute agreement with you... Balraj Sahni is sheer brilliance...

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  7. Surprise to not to see Parinda in your entire list..I like to know what u didn't liked about it..

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  8. Surprise to not to see Parinda in your entire list..I like to know what u didn't liked about it..

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