One of the most tragic events in the history of India and Pakistan, the Partition of 1947 is fraught with stories of grief, pain, horror, disbelief. Several Indian filmmakers have explored this theme. Few such films, however, are known of, from across the border. A lot of these stories have gone unspoken, unheard. Exploring one such rarely-heard story is Pakistani filmmaker Sabiha Sumar’s critically-acclaimed Khamosh Pani.
Sabiha’s debut feature narrates these events through her two central characters – Ayesha (Kirron Kher), a widow and her teenage son Saleem (Aamir Ali Malik).
They live in a small village of Chakri in Rawalpindi.
The film is set in 1979 when Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged by his successor Zia-ul-Haq, who enforced Islamic laws in the country.
Pakistan also witnessed a transformation from a liberal to an orthodox, conservative society in those years.
Religion was politicised and fundamentalists seduced or rather misled the youth to propagate their cause.
Sikhs, who until then lived with Muslims like their own were now being ostracized.
Saleem, an aimless, young boy, whose only dream was to marry her love Zubeida (Shilpa Shukla), too gets seduced into this propaganda.
A man with no ambitions suddenly finds a purpose in life.
But the mother fears losing Saleem, the only one she has to call a family.
The ghosts of her past come back to haunt her with this growing fear.
In flashback shots, we’re taken back to how Ayesha lost her family and how she ended up in this village.
It all becomes clear when one day a Sikh gentleman comes looking for a relative left behind around the time of the Partition.
The director skilfully interlaces both these themes – Ayesha’s backstory and the upsurge of Islamic extremism in the country.
Kirron Kher is the heart of Khamosh Pani. Her effortless yet powerful projection makes you empathise with the character.
She makes you a part of her journey.
Shilpa Shukla (of Chak De! and B.A. Pass) is perfectly cast in the role of Zubeida.
Aamir also fares well as Saleem.
The film is in Punjabi with a touch of Multani which lends it an authentic, believable feel.