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Khamosh Paani: When Kirron Kher taught us all a lesson in feminism

As Kirron Kher turns 63 on Thursday, we take a look at one of her finest film, Khamosh Paani (2004) by Pakistani filmmaker Sabiha Sumar. The film ends on a tragic note but leaves you wondering what really defines a woman.

bollywood Updated: Jun 14, 2018 15:20 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Khamosh Paani,Kirron Kher,Silent Waters
Kirron Kher plays a Pakistani widow in Khamosh Pani.

The current generation of Bollywood fans may recognise her as the loud and over-the-top Punjabi mom from films like Khoobsurat and Dosatana. However, before the Karan Johar camp embraced her as the cool mom, Kirron Kher already had a filmography that was enviably vast -- right at the beginning of her career, she bagged two National Film Awards (1996 and 1997 for Sardari Begum and Bariwali respectively) and essayed a vast variety of roles.

As Kirron Kher turns 63 on Thursday, we take a look at one of her finest film, Khamosh Paani (2004) by Pakistani filmmaker Sabiha Sumar.

Khamosh Paani is the story of a middle-aged woman in Pakistan, Ayesha (Kirron), who is a widow. She teaches Quran to neighbourhood children and supports her family. How she fights fundamentalism her entire life, only to realise that her son has fallen prey to it, forms the entire film’s narrative.

A still from Khamosh Pani.

Much before the sub-continent accepted feminism, however grudgingly, Kirron essayed a role that subverted male dominance and defied the definition of feminine honour. Khamosh Pani’s Ayesha stands her ground in front of the males in her family when they insist she must commit suicide to save the family’s ‘honour’ during India-Pakistan Partition.

Ayesha goes on to marry her abductor and takes care of the family after his death. She is the earning member of the family who teaches a liberal view of the Holy Quran to young girls in the neighbourhood. It is when Pakistan turns to fundamentalism under Zia-ul-Haq’s leadership that her own son adopts Jihad as his calling.

The film also traces the tragic and unfortunate turn of events when politics influences and exploits religion. How society falls victim to political propaganda driven by religious agenda is amply depicted in Khamosh Pani.

The film has touching music by Dr Madan Gopal Singh which adds to the narrative at every turn.

Singh, who also played Kirron’s brother in the film, remembers shooting for it in Pakistan: “I remember being holed up with a small group in a room in Panja Sahib Gurudwara (Pakistan). This was an interruption caused by the pilgrims objecting to a fictional scene being shot in a real sacred space.”

Khamosh Pani ends on a tragic note but one that leaves you questioning why should a woman be defined by anything other than her own individuality.

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First Published: Jun 14, 2018 15:19 IST