[Reader-list] Watching Khamosh Pani in India

Yousuf ysaeed7 at yahoo.com
Fri Dec 10 12:35:37 IST 2004

Dear Anand
I believe that it is possible to make a film/media
product that can entertain as well as make us think -
its a challange that few filmmakers take. It is
probably taken for granted that the populace who goes
to see veer-zaara or any other sentimental
(un-thinking) film will remain where they are, and
cannot 'mature'. But I am sure the average audience is
ready for an alternative. 

I remember one effort of this kind of film was Zakhm
(from the Mahesh Bhatt family) which used
sentimentality but also made people think - it didn't
offend only one community (though some thought that it
was more pro-Muslim). It wasn't a box-office hit but
its a tool that we use in our campaigns.

Actually such films could become problematic only when
they depend too much on real historical events, and
romaticize them. They do not try any alternative
histories or alternative futures. I am sure if someone
makes a film on "What if Partition hadn't happend?" or
What if the British never colonized us? the average
audience would be curious. One could even make a
futuristic film on exploring tactics of mutual
survival/co-existance by Hindus and Muslims, of course
by keeping all the history and sentimentality and
song-and-dance in it. Its a challange that filmmakers
need to take if they are genuinely interested in using
popular cinema for social change.


--- Anand Vivek Taneja <radiofreealtair at gmail.com>

> Dear Yousuf,
> This is not a reply to your mail, directly, but off
> on a tangent. 
> Khamosh Pani is not, as you write (and as the media
> has widely
> reported) the first Pakistani film to be released in
> India.
> There were a few Pakistani Punjabi films released in
> India in the mid
> nineteen fifties, the most prominent of them beig
> 'Dulla Bhatti',
> released in 1956.
> I am absolutely definite about Dulla Bhatti because
> of
> fieldwork/interviews at Imperial Cinema, PaharGanj -
>  where the film
> was screened, and was a hit, catering to a large
> refugee population.
> Dulla Bhatti, the character on who the film is
> based, is a fairly
> important character in Punjabi folklore - a bandit,
> and RobinHood type
> chivalrous rebel, who opposes the tyranny of Mughal
> tax collection in 
> Akbar's time.
> Apparently, songs sung during the annual 'Lohri'
> celebrations allude
> to Dulla Bhatti. Dulla Bhatti has, perhaps
> retrospectively, been
> identified as 'Musli'm, a category which might have
> been fariy fluid
> back in sixteenth century Punjab.
> Coming back to the points you have raised - 
> Last year, as part of my graduation from MCRC, along
> with two other
> people, Akshay Singh and Sakina Ali, I made a film
> on the twentieth
> century histories of the Purana Qila, 'The Past is a
> Foreign
> Country...'
>  (which you have seen being edited on FCP)
> The film, among other things, focuses on the Muslim
> refugee camp which
> came up inside the Purana Qila after the Delhi riots
> of September '47.
> It is not a pleasant dwelling - at all. Along with
> this, there are
> fairly obvious and un-nuanced fulminations against
> anti-Muslim
> prejudice in the preservation of monuments and the
> presentation of
> history....
> It is not a great film, by any standards - but in
> India, in Delhi, it
> has gone down well with audiences - generating
> awareness of the
> marginalised hsitories of the city, and debates
> about the politics of
> heritage conservation. it also gets a few laughs at
> the digs at our
> right-wingers.
> In April this year, I took the film to Lahore, and
> screened it for an
> audience of about eighty students at the Lahore
> University of
> Management Sciences.
> It turned out that some of them had grandparents who
> had come to
> Pakistan via the Purana Qila camps. and during the
> discusssion that
> followed, we moved away from issues of conservation,
> and i somehow
> ended up defending India in general, and the Indian
> state in
> particular - 'we're not that bad' - something I
> never thought I'd have
> to do.
> I guess what I'm trying to say is that we,as
> film-makers,or writers,
> try and make sense of the specific time and place we
> live in - and
> present them for People Like Us - by which I don't
> people who
> necessarily agree with one, but who inhabit the same
> media-scape, so
> to speak, and have inherited similar recieved
> histories.
> In that sense, of course, Paksitanis are not People
> Like Us, and vice
> versa. we do not inhabit the same media scape, we
> have not
> recieved/inherited the same histories. And which is
> why you don't need
> to go out of your way to make a Gadar, to cause
> discomfort or raise
> anger against the 'Other'.
> Last week, I saw a beautifuly made film called 'The
> Rock Star and the
> Mullahs' which has a  liberal Pakistani Muslim
> (Salman Ahmed of the
> rock group 'Junoon') confronting fundamentalists
> about the ban on the
> public performance of music in the North West
> Frontier Province. And
> yet, doubts were raised as to whether the film,
> instead of
> demonstrating that not all Muslims are jehadis, was
> in fact
> reinforcing stereotypes about Pakistan...
> As long as we make films for 'Indians' and
> 'Pakistanis' there is no
> way we can escape creating stereotypes and
> 'othering' on the Other
> Side, as long as we're dealing with Kashmir, or the
> Partition, or
> communal violence, or religious fundamentalism...
> ...is it possible to make a film which deals,
> however tangentially,
> with Partition, Communal Violence,  Kashmir or
> religious
> fundamentalism... without someone in the audience
> getting very bitter?
> ... unless, of course, it's something like
> 'Veer-Zaara' ;-) ?
> Cheers, 
> Anand
> On Thu, 9 Dec 2004 02:45:43 -0800 (PST), Yousuf
> <ysaeed7 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> > Watching "Khamosh Pani" in India
> > (And why I cannot use it for peace activism)
> > 
> > Yousuf Saeed
> > 
> > While Pakistani director Sabiha Sumer's 2003 film
> > Khamosh Pani (Silent Waters) is getting rave
> reviews
> > and highly emotional applause in many Indian
> theatres,
> > here are some personal thoughts, if anyone's
> > interested. For those who haven't seen it (and are
> > being reminded by the "must-watch" reports),
> Khamosh
> > Pani, the first Pakistani film ever released in
> Indian
> > theatres, is about an idyllic Pakistani village
> called
> > Charkhi which sees the rise of Islamic
> fundamentalism
> > in 1979's Ziaul Haq regime, and how it affects the
> > ordinary villagers such as Ayesha, her son Saleem,
> and
> > many others, including the visiting Sikh pilgrims
> from
> > India. I shouldn't reveal the full story to spoil
> the
> > fun for those who haven't seen it – it's great
> cinema
> > to watch. I only want to express a chilling
> uneasiness
> > I had while watching it at PVR cinema surrounded
> by
> > many Punjabi families, a number of them sobbing
> > through the film.
> > 
> > Much has already been written, produced, staged
> and
> > sung about the subject of India's Partition (on
> both
> > sides of the border), and would continue to, since
> its
> > horrible memories still haunt a large number of
> > affected people. But the question we must ask
> today:
> > is this memory going to help us resolve any of the
> > present day crisis, or is it only adding further
> fuel
> > to the fire. These days, when I watch a movie (or
> a
> > documentary or TV show) on the subject of
> communalism,
> > India-Pakistan and so on, (especially after 9/11
> and
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