Partition saga by Pakistani ready for release

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
12/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
It doesn't have songs, is in Punjabi, is made by a Pakistani and is considered a mainstream film -- documentary filmmaker Sabiha Sumar's  first film "Khamosh Pani" is finally set to be released in theatres across the country.

But will there be an audience for a film about a victim of the partition of India into two countries whose past catches up with her in unexpected and tragic ways?

The question needs to be asked even though the sweet tender film has floored everyone who has seen it so far.

One of the film's unlikely admirers is Sanjay Leela Bhansali who says he has been haunted by "Khamosh Pani" since he saw it. "I don't think I've seen a better film in the last one year. I'm haunted by the beautiful film, many months after I saw it. I wish we would have more films with the same beauty and economy of expression."

Coming from the maker of "Khamoshi: The Musical", "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" and "Devdas" -- three of the finest Indian films in the last decade -- this is high praise indeed.

Shringar Films of Mumbai are distributing "Khamosh Pani". The film is being released with English subtitles in multiplexes across the country, and also in the Punjab belt where for very obvious reasons it is expected to have a more persuasive run.

Would the film's regional flavour dampen its universal spirit? Exhibitors seem to think otherwise. There were large portions in Punjabi in the recent hit "Veer-Zaara", which sceptics thought would put off Hindi-speaking audiences. On the contrary, the Punjabi portions have been the most appreciated.

Robert Benigni's "Life Is Beautiful" also tore pages out of history books and turned them into high art. It mattered little that the characters spoke in Italian. Shringar Films is hoping that "Khamosh Pani" makes a similar impact.

Earlier, there was talk of dubbing the Punjabi dialogues into Hindi. The film's lead actress Kiron Kher was game for the changeover, just to avoid the situation faced in Rituparno Ghosh's "Chokher Bali" where Aishwarya Rai's dialogues in Bengali were dubbed into Hindi by an alien voice.

Fortunately, Shringar Films have chosen to retain the original dialogues, but are insisting on an interval even though the film is just an hour and 20 minutes!