Almost every form of physical violence that is possible for a human to commit on another was committed during the bloodbath of Partition. Blood literally flowed through the gutters of thousands of villages and cities across both the countries.
Rape, arson, abduction and lootings were everyday occurrences. Law and order were completely defunct.
The events of Partition not only lends itself to thousands of poignant stories (e.g. almost each of the subjects that Urvashi Butalia mentions and records in her book The Other Side of Silence have quite a few stories that can make good films), but is like an open mine-field for a director, who can only be limited by his imagination in his attempt to communicate to the audience with haunting visuals.
Film, after all, IS a visual medium.
It's not surprising that most films about Partition rely on depictions of gory violence, be it extremely gruesome scenes of rape and looting in Hey Ram and 1947 Earth or the hammed up scenes of the same in Pinjar.
Chhinnamul shows the pathetic plight of refugees with scenes that were actually shot clandestinely in refugee camps (the first Indian feature film to take to the streets with gusto and thus foreshadowing the influence of Neo-realism in later films, be it of Ray, Ghatak or even Sathyu in Garm Hava).
Its director Nemai Ghosh, having made his rounds of the refugee camps, and having had history on his side, knew that he did not need to recreate the camps to inspire empathy in his audience, he merely had to show it the way it was.
One cannot blame filmmakers for falling into this 'visual' temptation. It is both a birthright and duty of a filmmaker to show man's inhuman brutality towards another, in the hopes of generating enough empathy in his audience, for them to abjure violence if a similar situation presented itself before them.
In this context, Garm Hava emerges as a rare and courageous film in the annals of not just Partition or Indian Cinema, but indeed World Cinema.
The immediate and most obvious violence is no doubt physical, but on close introspection of almost any conflict in the world, we realise that the greater violence committed against any group of people, is structural violence.
It is this structural violence that Garm Hava so succinctly and uniquely depicts. The physical violence in the film is limited, restricted to just one scene of riot.
However, the violence created by a structure that suddenly changes due to a political decision and how this new structure crushes individuals who were comfortable in the old structure, is a story that is playing out across the planet everywhere.
Also unlike Chhinnamul and Ghatak's film with its preoccupation on the literal refugee, Garm Hava portrays a refugee of another ilk, and one much graver and pathetic.
Salim Mirza, who had thus far lived his life in peace and dignity, sees this dignity denied to him in the changed politics of the nation.
Thus, though he refuses to leave for Pakistan, where he might have become a refugee like millions of others who did so, here he ends up becoming an 'internal refugee', a man who is not at home in his own home.
Salim Mirza is thus the embodiment of all such people strangely sent into exile in their own homes, by the force of suddenly changed politics.
The only other Partition film that attempts to do this, and succeeds charmingly, is Khamosh Pani.
Image: An undivided family eats together in the film Garm Hava