Kamli- So good that even minor flaws seem glaring defects!
They say that if you have read a great review of a movie, when you go watch it, it will decidedly fall short of your expectations and vice versa. After reading and hearing rave reviews, all full of praises for Sarmad Sultan Khoosat’s ‘Kamli’, I was pleasantly surprised to experience a beautifully made, almost perfect film.
The Story: (Saba Qamar) lives with her missing husband’s sister Sakeena (Sania Saeed) in some nondescript village-like setting. Her lonely existence is one day suddenly shaken by the entry of Amaltas (Hamza Khawaja) who gives her hope for a rosier future. As she feels renewed with the energy of a budding romance, driving her towards freedom from the shackles of age-old traditions by which she is bound, her plans to escape fall miserably flat on their face. Watch the film to feel the epic joy of newly found love and the haunting aftermath in a society bound by cruel, outdated norms.
The Good: Let’s get to the best first: The acting is superb, especially Saba Qamar’s and Sania Saeed’s. The storyline and script are tightly packed and intriguing enough to make you keep watching attentively, till the very end, never wanting to miss a single scene. The cinematography is world class; direction almost flawless; the locale chosen will make you fall in love with the local landscape- some nature shots are breathtaking! The mere magnificence of banal little occurrences of rural life are enough to capture the audience such as the thunderstorms, the rescuing of a kitten from rain or spreading the mosquito net at night. The symbolism is simply glorious: numerous symbolic elements are intricately woven in quite masterfully (though I have yet to meet a person who has been able to pick upon all of them- which is quite a bold move on the part of the movie maker). The music is soulful and captures the heart.
The Bad: Unfortunately, when one’s expectations crescendo into such a high, in the very beginning of the film, even the little things that have been overlooked by the director, bother us more. The first thing that hits you as disappointingly wrong is the wardrobe choice of the actors, especially the heroin. Living in a village-like setting with a house which does not even have full-rising boundary walls, the protagonist Hina’s choice of clothes seems modern, very fashionable and out of place for her setting, more so when she attends a close friend’s wedding. What one can’t wrap one’s mind around, is how a few girls, belonging to the village, seen wrapped modestly in large chaddars normally in other scenes, come in to pose as scantily-clad models for Zeenat’s (Nimra Bucha) painting practice. During the posing, this painter baji’s husband Malik Saab (Umair Rana) freely walks in and out of his wife’s painting studio in their presence. Even though they are shown to get uncomfortable as Malik Saab walks in, the whole idea seems removed from reality, making it a glaring flaw. It is surprising how Malik Saab has absolutely no opinion in the matter of his wife deciding his fate and pushing him towards a second marriage, as he remains confoundingly mute on the matter- leaving us wondering why an actor of his caliber accepted this role. The scenes of the dance of the lion and deer- Amaltas and Hina, was a great idea portraying sexual tension and desire, but sadly, looked comical instead of invoking feelings of extreme attraction and magnetismbetween the couple on screen. This, I attribute to the limitations of Pakistani cinema and nothing else.
The Sad: The most unfortunate thing is that the fantastic subject of the movie could not be treated with the kind of detail it deserved. But for this we do not blame the film either; we only blame the rigidity of our society’s mindsets and the censor board that rules us with an iron fist. Pertinent issues have been brought to light: the unflinchingly manipulative control of a woman wanting dominance over another woman’s life; the sexual frustrations of a married woman crushed into the yoke of ignorance about religion and societal tradition, battling along completely alone through life. Undoubtedly, sensitivities about such topics run high over here. Better to produce a film that can touch the audience in any small way than to make one that never sees the light of day.
Needless to say that one feels pangs of immense pride, knowing that this movie is homemade – a desi venture, a job so well done that it is attracting accolades of praises globally. Here’s hoping to seeing even better from our local film industry and especially Sarmad Sultan Khoosat in the near future!