This is an elegant and subtle film about the lives of widow Ayesha and her teenage son Saleem and how the political and cultural climate of the past and present clash ... destroying their lives forever. Buried memories return to haunt the widow Ayesha ... until she can take no more. Saleem is nearing adulthood and is the indulged and only son of the widow. Ayesha prays at the graveside of her husband - supplicating Allah to provide a good marriage partner for Saleem. She asks for a daughter-in-law who will be of assistance with the housework as she ages. Saleem secretly meets Zubeida his girlfriend at the mosque. SThey discusses their future. Zubeida hates housework and talks of attending a women's college so she can work in an air conditioned office ... As they exchange kisses Saleem sees a bleak future for himself. He has limited opportunities, realistically he can either become a laborer in the fields or work as a clerk for a shopkeeper in town. Neither appeals to him, he is restless, unsettled, looking for a more meaningful existence and better working conditions ...
During a wedding celebration of a wealthy businessman ... two politically connected religious fanatics come to the village as guests of the groom. Their goal is to raise the concsiousness of the young people to new ideas about building an Islamic republic in Pakistan. One of them is so serious and focused, he does not even attend the wedding feast where a famous dancer is entertaining guests. Around this time, there is a political deal struck between India and Pakistan which allows the Sikhs, past residents of the village and political exiles to return and visit Pakistan. Many come to their former village to celebrate a religious holiday at the local temple. There is a heart-warming scene in which two Sikhs are walking on the hillside which overlooks the village. One reminisces how his dying father still talks about wanting to view the scenery and mountains from the paths they walk.
Saleem and his male friends attend the mosque and listen to the strongly worded emotional appeals of the Imam ... He whips up passion and obedience. He intertwines their religious fervor with spiritual messages and political rhetoric ... Saleem is seduced and wantw to help build a strong nation based on these distorted principles. Saleem becomes emotionally distant from his mother and girlfriend as the teachings take hold of his psyche. He comes home late one night and beseeches his mother to express her allegiance and beliefs publicly in the village square. He adds, "Or I will not be responsible for what happens." He asks, "What is wrong with standing out in the open and making a statement?" Ayesha has flashbacks of standing over a well looking down into the water. She remembers other girls doing the same. She recalls men surrounding the girls - somehow during the commotion ... she managed to run away and find shelter in a cave. In another flashback, a man proposes marriage and states that from then on her name will be "Ayesha", they marry. Meanwhile Saleem joins a mob as young men carry sticks and demonstrate in the village, chanting Islamic slogans ... Wary shopkeepers close their doors in acquiesence to the changing times and the implied and actual threats.
One of the Sikh men walks around the business district making inquiries about survivors of a politically charged tragic event of the past. Specifically, he is looking for someone, a female survivor whom he names. A Pakistani couple of Muslim background knows or suspects they know who the woman is. They debate whether or not to notify her about the visitor and his questions. The husband lets her know. The Sikh recalls the paths and buildings in the village and visits his former home: he sees Ayesha and calls out her former name, he is certain she is his sister. The suspense of this meeting and how the past and present collide to create highly charged emotional scenes that are politically and culturally based are difficult to describe, they must be viewed. The director deals sensitively and delicately with a difficult cultural issue. The scenes are superbly done with extraordinairy artistry and symbolism. The dramatic scenes are carefully crafted which makes them more poignant and real. The bonus material includes an interview with a Human Rights expert who deals with Muslim women's rights. This enhanced DVD brings full attention to how complacent the rest of the world is to the very real threats women face who live in this part of the world. It is sad how misguided beliefs and distorted value systems destroy the human spirit and are used as the excuse to kill people. This is a beautifully done artistic film which packs a powerful punch. It leaves the viewer more enlightened about the plight of women in parts of the Muslim world. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]