Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Khamosh Pani

Movie Review : Khamosh Pani (Silent Waters)
Released : 2004
Language : Punjabi
Director : Sabiha Sumar
Starring : Kiron Kher, Shilpa Shukla, Aamir Malik
My Rating : 9 out of 10

The partition of 1947 - when the state of Pakistan was created - has been a subject of many movies. It was a traumatic experience for displaced families to say the least. As is unfortunately usual in such ethnic struggles, the ultimate price is paid by women. The point "Khamosh Pani" illustrates, is that the nightmare doesn't ever end - it just comes back in different but equally devastating forms.

Director Sabiha Sumar tells the story of one such woman "Ayesha" with simple honesty. Ayesha (played perfectly by Kiron Kher) lives in a village in the part of Punjab that ended up in Pakistan. Ayesha is a widow and her life revolves around her son Saleem (Aamir Malik) - who is becoming an adult, but still is not very mature. He has a girlfriend Zubeida (Shilpa Shukla) - who has big dreams of her own. Overall their life is typically placid.

But this is year 1979. Prime Minister Bhutto is hanged by the army dictator Zia Ul Haq, beginning Pakistan's long steady descent into the grips of Islamic Fundamentalism. We are only told about these events via news on radio, but we witness its effect on the protagonists. It's easy to see how an aimless lost youth like Saleem is an easy target to be devoured by fundamentalist recruiters. His conversion begins at the worst time for Aayesha. The Sikh people are allowed to come to Pakistan to visit their place of worship. This creates religious tensions. For Aayesha, this brings back all the painful memories she was trying to suppress all the while - because one Sikh person is looking for his sister who was left behind.

This is a difficult and excruciatingly sad subject. Women who could not escape in time either lost their honor or were killed by their own family members in the name of protecting the honor. It's not hard to guess what Ayash'a past must have been, and Sabiha Sumar treats it with utmost sensitivity.

That is the real hallmark of this movie. The directory just completely avoids the trap of over-dramatization. The entire movie feels really real. The village, the people, their interactions, everything. There is no preaching, no propaganda, just storytelling. There is a lot of symbolism, but nothing overt. It's impossible to miss the Aayesha's tragedy - she could never escape the horrors of partition. It took away her remaining happiness and life many years later, but take away it did.

Everybody performs well, although I thought Saleem's transformation from a naive youth to a blind fanatic deserved a better performer than Aamir Malik, who was overshadowed by his 2 main costars. We don't expect anything less from an actress like Kiron Kher and she delivers far more. Her portrayal of Aayesha is absolutely authentic.

This is a sad movie and not for kids. I would definitely include this in "must watch" category.

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