Khamosh Pani

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Khamosh Pani
Sw cover 2.jpg
Khamosh Pani movie poster
Directed bySabiha Sumar
Produced byPeter Hermann
Written byParomita Vohra
StarringKiron Kher
Shilpa Shukla
Aamir Malik
Adnan Shah Tipu
Rehan Sheikh
Distributed byShringar Films (India)
Release date
  • 15 August 2003 (2003-08-15) (Locarno Film Festival)
  • 8 October 2004 (2004-10-08) (Pakistan)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryIndia and Pakistan

Khamosh Pani (Punjabi: خاموش پانی, Silent Waters) is a 2003 Indo-Pakistani film about a widowed mother and her young son living in a Punjabi village as it undergoes radical changes during the late 1970s.

Shot in a Pakistani village, the film was also released in India. It won seven awards, including Golden Leopard (Best Film), Best Actress, and Best Direction at the 56th Locarno International Film Festival, Switzerland.[1]


In 1979 in Charkhi,[2] a village in the Punjab province of Pakistan, Ayesha (a middle-aged widow) lives with her son Saleem, a teenager in love with schoolgirl Zubeida. Ayesha supports herself and Saleem with her late husband's pension and by giving lessons in the Qur'an to village girls. She refuses to go to the village well, and her neighbor's daughters draw water for her. Villagers like Amin, the postman, are troubled by the recent hanging of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto by Zia-ul-Haq, the new military ruler who has promised to enforce Islamic law and encourages Islamic missionary and political groups. Two Islamic activists come to the village and, supported by the village choudhury, spread their message of Islamic zealotry and gain recruits to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The older men in the village are disdainful of their intolerance and puritanism, cynical about Zia's postponement of elections and angry when the activists accuse them of being traitors. The activists gain a following amongst the village youth, including Saleem. They cajole and intimidate Saleem into attending a political meeting in Rawalpindi, where the speakers exhort the audience to commit themselves to jihad for the creation of an Islamic Pakistani state. Attracted by their zeal and call to serve Islam and Pakistan, Saleem (who wants to be more than a village farmer) breaks up with Zubeida and becomes estranged from his mother. Ayesha unsuccessfully tries to discourage him from following the Islamists. Saleem helps build a wall around the girls' school to "protect" them and enforces the closing of village shops during namaaz in line with Zia-ul-Haq's Islamisation, and Ayesha and Zubeida are alarmed by his transformation.

After an agreement between the Indian and Pakistani governments, a group of Sikh pilgrims from India, arrives in Pakistan to visit Sikh shrines. They come to Charkhi, the village they were forced to flee when Pakistan became independent. A pilgrim wants to look for his sister, who he believes survived the violence. The visitors have a mixed reception: a warm welcome from the village barber and hostility from the growing number of young Muslim zealots. Saleem is embarrassed that his mother sent food to the pilgrims and teaches the village girls that non-Muslims can go to heaven. The pilgrim asks some villagers, including Amin, if they knew if a Sikh woman survived the riots. They say they do not know, but Amin later visits the pilgrim's hut and tells him to look for the woman who never goes to the well. Following the girls who bring water to her house, the pilgrim finds Ayesha. When he asks her if she knows a Sikh woman who survived the riots, she anxiously tells him to leave. Saleem sees the pilgrim talking to his mother, and hears him call her "Veero" and tell her that her father wanted to see her before he died. Saleem is shocked to learn that Ayesha was Veero, a Sikh; in a flashback, she was amongst a group of village Sikh women lined up to jump into the village well rather than be raped by a Muslim mob in 1947. The Sikh men (including her father) want her to jump, but Veero runs away and is later caught, raped and imprisoned. Her rapist, remorseful, offers to marry her and she begins life as a Muslim.

Saleem reports this to his friends, who demand that Ayesha make a public declaration of her Islamic faith; she refuses and is shunned by the villagers, including her best friends. For the first time in over thirty years, she must fetch her own water. Ayesha meets her Sikh brother at the well but refuses to accompany him, condemning her father for encouraging her to commit suicide and asking how he would feel knowing that she was living as a Muslim. Her isolation increases, with only Zubeida keeping in touch with her. Realizing that she cannot escape her past, Ayesha jumps into the well. Saleem buries her, gathers her papers and belongings and throws them into the river.

In 2002 in Rawalpindi, Zubeida remembers Ayesha. In the street she sees a bearded Saleem, secretary-general of an Islamist organisation, answering questions about the compatibility of Islamic law with democracy.




  1. ^ Swiss honour Pakistani movie BBC News, August 18, 2003.
  2. ^ On location shooting actually done in Wah village, Northern Punjab. See "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-31. Retrieved 2015-09-17.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Silent waves, still waters The Hindu, December 2, 2004.
  4. ^ Awards Internet Movie Database.
  5. ^ a b Award Citations - 2003 Kara Awards Karachi International Film Festival Official website.
  6. ^ Visiting Pakistan was like a pilgrimage: Kiron Kher Times of India, July 20, 2004.

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