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Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Kamli: The magical realism of love lost and cloaked secrets

Kamli is a 2022 Pakistani drama film directed by Sarmad Khoosat, who also has produced it with Kanwal Khoosat under the banner Khoosat Films. It stars Saba Qamar, Sania Saeed, Nimra Bucha and debutante Hamza Khawaja in the lead role.

With a brilliant cast including Saba Qamar, Sania Saeed and Nimra Bucha, along with the ace director SarmadKhoosat, Kamli turns out to be a masterpiece of Pakistani cinema highlighting the intricate web of parallel stories laden with the rich symbolism of nature. By blurring the distinction between romanticism and realism, the storyline depicts a series of disjointed scenes set against ominous and eerie music where imagination dictates the progression of the events relatable to our real lives.

Boarding upon an atypical subject, conceptually, Kamli narrates the lives of three women enmeshed in an intricate web of profuse symbolism and abstract images. By taking the same ingredients that are familiar to audiences when it comes to mainstream films, Kamli is the unique recipe of a story line which elucidates the complex psychological workings of human mind set against the backdrop of sombre Soon Valley of Chiral.

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The mountain-scrapped location

The unusual mountain-scaped backdrop attuned itself beautifully to the characters and the tone set for the film. The surreal terrain depicted both a weird sense of sadness and serenity alongside the historical significance of the land that includes Hindu temples, sufilores, peacocks and Alexander the Great trek reflected the internal turmoil and mayhem experienced by the protagonist Hina during the course of time.

Superficially, the Kamli’s plot elucidates the eight-year-long wait of a young and beautiful Hina, (Saba Qamar) of her husband Saqlain to return. During the course of time, Hina has lost the light of her eyes as subdued and quiet, she monotonously spends every passing day under the protection and love of her sister-in-law Sakina (Sania Saeed). As the plot unfolds, Sakina’s love for Hina becomes overbearing and suffocating as she tries to shield her from the society and fights with anyone who suggests Hina to get remarried.

Hina spends her afternoons modeling for Zeenat (NimraBucha). An alcoholic who is in a loveless marriage with Malik Sahab (Omair Rana). The couple is often pitied because they do not have children.

Read more: Saba Qamar cancels her wedding with Azeem Khan

As Hina struggles to find her independence and love, the parallel story of an artist Zeenat (NimraBucha) also unfolds to whom Hina spends her afternoon modeling. The rich affluent lady in Soon Valley is another married woman who has lost her way; the lives in an unhappy marriage with Malik Sahab (Omair Rana) having no children to carry his name.

The nature imagery

What drives the plot forward is the rich nature imagery with the entry of the debut Amaltas (Hamza Khawaja), a traveler with just a motorcycle and a camera to his name. No matter how much Hina tries to fight it, she is attracted to him to the point when things spiral out of control. The lines between real and imaginary start to blur as secrets become uncloaked, fire rages on and deception and lies descend Hina into a heart of darkness.

In the midst, the romantic mood of the film takes the audience off their feet with the storyline obeying the dynamics of pathetic fallacy. Evoking the viewers’ senses, the beautiful scenery of the valley; the scenic waterfall, hidden alcoves, tall weeds and clear blue water adds to the danger, thrill, excitement and romance budding between the two lovers. Where it all started with water, it came to an end with fire. The audience realizes it only at the end shaking them to the core as W B Yeats says in the Second Coming;

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

The symbolic prey game

Pertaining to its symbolic overtones, Kamli employs the concept of lion and deer preying scene to shed light upon the right of independence and will denied to the protagonist the backdrop of rigid and orthodox societal customs. In the opening scenes, just before meeting Altamas, the man of her dreams, Hina dwells upon the glimpse of a lion preying on the deer. As the wanderer tells Hina that there is no pretense between the two animals and the lion selfishly pursues his wants, the audience for a second worries if Altamas is preying upon the innocent docile and devoted wife.

However, as the lovers dance on the tunes of “Mukhra” by Atif Aslam, the audience see Hina transform into a lioness coming to a vantage point; a realization of what she wants and that there is no point to loving someone who is neither a ghost nor a person lost in time.

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Throughout the course of the film, Saba beautifully enacts the docility and subdued nature of Hina. The audience can relate to her eagerness to escape and deep sense of longing and desire and in doing so, she reaches out to us as a confidant. The audience is mesmerized by her expressions and live and empathize with her as she makes us listen to her story without words, sway in the dark forest and hold till the end to the light at the end of the tunnel. As she makes us fall in love with the man of her dreams, but more so herself.

By contrast, Kamli also allows the audience to contemplate the nature of love which is helpless and geniue but becomes intolerable as it reaches the point of suffocation. Sakina’s character highlights such controlling nature of love by raising questions as to what extent one can go to keep their loved ones close and save themselves from loneliness. Can the burden of suffering be diminished when shared by two people? Sakina’s character brings these questions to life as she shows us her sides that we would never expect.

The villain and the clouds

In another disjointed scene, Sakina tells the story of a beautiful girl who falls in love with a traveler. As Sakina’s tale symbolically mirrored Hina’s own never-ending wait of unrequited love, the audience is grappled with the sinking of Hina’s bosom in the pool of water. However, the ending leaves powerful questions for the audience to comprehend; who are the clouds in this situation and what they are protecting her from? Hindsight becomes twenty and the terrifying realization of the villain in Hina’s life leave the audience in a cathartic state in the lieu of purgation of strong feelings of pity and fear.

Read more: Saba Qamar opens up about her abusive relationship of eight years

With the eerie and powering presence of Zeenat (Nimra Bucha) and the magic unfolding on the screen, the cast and the storyline of Kamli have proven that Pakistani cinema has immense potential to explore the artistic and abstract side of literariness other than producing the lackluster comedies that the audience had been receiving over the years.


Hadia Mukhtar is a CSP officer allocated in Pakistan Audit and Accounts Services. She has done her master’s in English Literature from Karachi University and has worked as an Assistant Editor at GVS. She can be reached at hadia.mukhtar92@gmail.com. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.