Garam Hawa | Chicago Reader

Garam Hawa

This 1973 Indian feature by first-time director M.S. Sathyu takes place in the days immediately following the Indo-Pakistani partition, as a Muslim shoemaker (Balraj Sahni) in Agra, India, tries to resist the prejudice and economic pressure that tempt him to abandon his family business and emigrate to Pakistan. Sathyu brings a naturalist touch to this detailed family drama, shooting in color and on the streets, often with a handheld camera. In several scenes he uses point-of-view shots to turn the viewer into a Hindu banker or employer (“You're wasting your time in this country,” says one of them offscreen. “Try your luck in Pakistan”). When the shoemaker and his son head for the train station to get out of town, a protest blocks traffic; the man lets his son join the throng, then decides to step into the flow himself. “The storm seen from afar looks the same, here and there,” says the narrator. “If you join the stream, it becomes a mighty torrent.” With only one musical number and a message of communal tolerance, the film survived the censorship of its time and still speaks to the religious tensions surrounding India's Muslim minority. 136 min.

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