Both employ accurate portrayal of sensitivities of elements driving important and difficult decisions by their characters. Both present relevant issues. Both have powerful women characters central to their script. Both end in ways I wouldn't have brought them to a close (for what it's worth). And both have engaging screenplays and dialogue. Garam Hawa (Hot Winds) is by far the better film overall, so let’s discuss it first.
The very first minute promises a treat, with pictures such as this being highlighted with the opening credits. There are several other striking (and carefully selected and sequenced) images from 1947 that portray a multitude of emotions.
Salim Mirza (Balraj Sahni) and his family, who live in Agra, face crucial choices as several among their circle of family and friends migrate to Pakistan after partition. The allure of a better life, and one perceived free of discrimination based on religion provides motivation. Salim is confused, but convinced his love for India will win in the long term, and that the country's people would foster peace after the Mahatma Gandhi's assassination. What price must he pay for his conviction? This question, at the high level, guides the film.
There are several beautifully presented character sketches, from the elderly daadi ([paternal] grandmother) of the household to her great-grandchildren. Shaukat Azmi (that's Shabana's mother) as Salim’s wife is excellent. Their children, Sikdandar and Amina, are brilliantly portrayed by Farooq Shaikh (his debut film) and Gita Siddharth, who is the star of the film for me. She plays a complicated character and is involved in a love triangle with Shamshad (Jalal Agha) and Kazim (Jamal Hashmi); Hashmi is Tabu’s father!
Gita's performance here is memorable and perfect for her critical role. An unrivaled barometer for beauty is appearance in modest dress, and she looks stunning throughout. Helps to wear saffron and green bangles (haaye Allah!)!
For ye Farooq Shaikh fans (I know you're out there):
I like that tie [Lagaanite] A. K. Hangal is wearing:
Here's a variant from my collection :)
What an interesting question:
It is far from a commercial film, but that does not mean it isn't entertaining. The lighthearted moments coupled with the love stories means it’s all rather atypical of films of the genre I have seen, and for the better.
Which leads to what I think are the biggest strengths of the film – its dialogue (Kaifi Azmi) and screenplay (Kaifi Azmi and Shama Zaidi); the film is based on a short story by Ismat Chughtai. The film employs impeccable use of the Urdu language, a treat which, when combined with the dialogue delivery and art direction (that it’s based in Agra obviously works to some advantage), conveys a magnificent sense of space. It only adds to the completeness of this remarkable film.
It also means commentary on civic and regional issues, including on the role of the media, politicians, and unions, remains respectful while being candid. There is a lot it addresses in a little over two hours, and the issues could fill countless volumes of outpourings of thought without coming to a progressive conclusion (almost like the governments of the region :) That the film has that sense of self-awareness is a major complement.
The only song in Garam Hawa, a qawwali by Aziz Ahmed Khan Warsi, is a masterpiece. I can tell you from my visits to dargaahs in South Asia and westward, that this is one of the most authentic qawwalis I have ever come across in a film.
What adds to the aura of the film is some of its history. From here:
The production of the film was plagued by a smattering of public protests; ultimately, Sathyu had to divert attention from his actual locations by using a fake second unit crew and sending them out with an unloaded camera.
Once finished, Garam Hawa was again the subject of controversy; it was banned as an "instigation to communal dissension." Sathyu was strong in his conviction, however, and he showed the film to many government leaders and journalists. The influence of these people on the censorship board led to a reversal of the ban. The film went on to win a national award for its contribution to "national integration." More recognition followed, including accolades that praised the film's efforts to create "a language of common identity" and to humanize the situation endured by Muslims in North India who did not wish to move from their homes after the partition.
I am told by most everyone I have asked that Garam Hawa is not available on DVD, and it took a while before I got a copy from my uncle a couple continents away, who was kind enough to transfer it to DVD for me. The good news is, as a recent Indian Express piece notes, "now 36 years after it was first released, the film will again hit theatres in August, thanks to the restoration work that is being undertaken, frame by frame, by 15 technicians at Cameo Studios in Pune." It seems a DVD release of the restored print is around the corner as well, and I'd wait for that than buy it on VHS (I'm guessing India has copies), since I cannot imagine it won't have better subtitles (the dialogue makes the film what it is).
If you haven't seen it and the theme interests you, don't think twice. It's a triumph for cinema no matter how one looks at it.
Movie rating: 4.75/5 (Fantastic!)
Think of it as beginning where 1947 Earth (1999) left off. This is relatively much easier to consume. Thank you Bollyviewer for the recommendation.
Music rating: 5/5
Ustad Bahadur Khan provides music to one song that’s simply perfect, and to the background score which will work wonders for fans of classical music.
My Classification: PG (For theme)
It is indeed a lovely name; the word carries multiple meanings, among them, 'the gracious', 'the excellent', and 'marigold'! Zubeidaa (2001), directed by Shyam Benegal, is written by film critic and filmmaker Khalid Mohammed, in what is partly inspired from a true account of his mother Zubeidaa’s life.
Film journalist Riaz Masood (Rajit Kapoor) longs to learn more about his mother Zubeidaa (Karisma Kapoor), who passed in an airplane crash when he was a young child. His quest leads him to key people in Zubeidaa's life, including Dance Master Hiralal (Shakti Kapoor) and Rose Davenport (Lilette Dubey). That he lives with grandmother Fayyazi (Surekha Sikri) to whom he is entrusted when his parents divorced is consequential, as is his visit to the Maharani Mandira Devi (Rekha). Mandira Devi is the other (and first) woman to whom Zubeidaa’s husband -- Maharaja Vijayendra Singh, or Victor (Manoj Bajpai) -- was married.
It’s a tricky subject given Zubeidaa’s romantic relationships were set in India of the 1950s. What also makes it complicated is that Riyaz’s father migrated to India from Pakistan, and desires a return to his former home country. Add to that that Zubeidaa’s father Sulaiman Seth (Amrish Puri), a filmmaker, is opposed to his daughter’s wishes to be an acting professional, and that his unrelenting desire to control the lives of those in his household ultimately gives rise to why he wouldn’t attend his daughter’s funeral.
Again, the characters are well laid out. The performances are top-notch, and led by Karisma Kapoor, who owns her role from the very beginning. Watch her interact with everyone from her stubborn father to her subservient mother, unsure husband, child, impulsive lover turned ignoring husband, and treacherous brother-in-law. She’s effective in each case, and truly makes the film what it is. Among others in the cast, Amrish Puri, Rekha, and Manoj Bajpai are the clear standouts. No surprises there. I really enjoyed most of the classy sequences, complete with the perfect background score elements, from crowd noise to toasts and colliding glasses.
There’s an apt exchange between Puri and Zubeidaa’s father-in-law, on the perceived fit of members of the Indian Muslim community in India and Pakistan, which I thought was spot on with its representation of the multiple sides of the issue. There are films that spend hours on the subject and get this portrayal wrong, and this one does it right in less than five minutes! For the record, I think both arguments presented are very valid. And speaking of Puri, we know he means it when he says this:
Here is Karisma keeping it real! Fans of henna please skip what I'm about to say (or if you read it, do forgive me; I seem to be in an extremely small minority of this opinion), I cannot stand the smell (or call it a fragrance, if you may).
This one's for you, Sita-ji ;)
You’ve probably listened to the fantastic music (A. R. Rahman; lyrics by Javed Akhtar). It's a Rahman classic, one I know many consider among his ten best of the decade. They're probably correct, because Zubeidaa contains song after wonderous song. When it’s not a great gypsy song -- Main Albeli -- in a film within the film it’s the fantastic Mehndi Hai Rachne Waali, pervasive at weddings. So Gaye Hain is one of two Lata Mangeshkar songs. Then there are a couple of love songs, Dheeme Dheeme, and my favorite song from the album, Hai Naa, which is tailored to fans of Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik. With lyrics like, "light flames of passion along my path," need one say more? This BollyWHAT link has translations to the songs.
The script to the second half of Zubeidaa could have been more compact, but that's a minor complaint when the execution never heads south. I saw the film with my parents, who didn't dislike it (they're the better critics). Although we largely agreed it was difficult to stay emotionally attached to Zubeidaa the longer the film lasted, and that this was due to her growing selfish tendencies. *Spoiler* There's no question her actions, especially toward the end, were impulsive and ignored the bigger picture. *End spoiler* But that's only a complaint against Zubeidaa the character, not Zubeidaa the film.
Who are we to complain of the character's shortcomings? She was only human, and this is a touching, soulful tribute from a son who barely spent any time with his mother. Close to four stars, then, for a story well told! This one is worth checking out for the performances and songs alone. Here is Khalid Mohammad discussing the film, the extent of its relationship with reality, and more.
Movie rating: 3.75/5 (Very good!)
Almost got away in the second half, but it’s more than good enough to recommend a viewing.
Music rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent!)
Another excellent 2001 soundtrack by Rahman and Akhtar.
My classification: PG-13 (For theme, sexual situations)
Added 7/19: A big thank you to Darshit for sharing these pictures from his visit to Jodhpur earlier this year. He's outlined filming locations from other movies (including Sarfarosh (1999)!) at this link. The following related to Zubeidaa (click to enlarge):
Umaid Bhavan Palace, a part of which, per this Wikipedia article, is a hotel! (The exclamation is only to imply excitement at the facility to stay there during a visit. I agree these palaces should be kept in their pure form, but good luck preserving them there if not tied to maximum possible monetary gains.)
How cool a Lego version would be!
The child (right) who took over after Zubeidaa's husband the Maharaja died, and the Maharaja's daughters.
The Maharaja, his first wife (right, played by Rekha) and their children. No Zubeidaa.