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"Khamosh Pani"



"Khamosh Pani" ... strong emotional content.

IN THE mood to get on board the train to Pakistan of 1979?

Be warned that Pakistani director Sabiha Sumar's ``Khamosh Pani" (Silent Waters) could be a little disturbing ride down memory lane.

Publicists proclaim that the film is the winner of 14 International awards. That for starters, should give you an idea of the strong emotional content that the film packs. In a village called Charkhi in Pakistani Punjab, Ayesha (Kirron Kher) lives with her 18-year old son Saleem (Aamir Malik) and makes a living out of giving Quran lessons when the country under President Zia embarks on the road to Islamisation.

Influenced by fundamentalists, Saleem leaves Zubeida (Shilpa Shukla), his lover, and takes up the cause of jihad, at a time when Sikh pilgrims are allowed entry into the country for the first time after Partition. One such pilgrim, looking for his sister Veero, further escalates the tension between the son and mother and unfolds a disturbing twist that changes their lives forever.

How politics influences, interprets and exploits religion, how fundamentalists separate mother from son, how society falls victim to propaganda, be it under the regime of Zia or Musharaff, is brilliantly etched out by the Pakistani director, who has painstakingly researched, detailed and recreated actual events in credible locations.

But the historical context is just a backdrop for the emotional conflict between contrasting ideologies at one level — interpretation of the Quran, as done by the fanatics and as done by those who preach harmony — and between a caring mother with a painful past and her misled son treading the road to a dangerous future.

Kirron Kher essays Ayesha with conviction, underplaying when she has to, with the ease of a veteran. Her face portrays pain and helplessness, not saying a word, yet speaking volumes. Aamir Malik with his very angry-young-Amitabh Bachchan hairstyle, looks every bit the confused rebel — vulnerable and intense, with angst and frustration written all over his face. The rest of the cast comprising a bunch of extremely talented actors brings to life the world of a volatile Pakistan of 1979.

For a debutant, Sabiha Sumar has done an incredible job fleshing out the characters and the ambience that gives the film a canvas (director of photography: Ralf Netzer) that is so candid be it the kiss between Saleem and Zubeida or the revelation of Ayesha's past, be it the images of the partition or that of modern Pakistan, of 2002.

Music by Madan Gopal Singh and Arshad Mahmud and theme by Arjun Sen prop up the melancholic mood. The soulful strains enrich the ambience and the music is the perfect background for the emotional, shocking tale.

The only drawback is the slow pace at which the tale (Paromita Vohra's screenplay) unfolds. But then if you love world cinema, you aren't really going to complain.

SUDHISH KAMATH

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