Kamli: Exploring Female Desires in Pakistani Cinema

What happens when magical realism, folktales and forests meet? It creates Kamli, a unique and surreal film where dreamlike elements blend with the real world and blur the lines between reality and fantasy. Set against the backdrop of the stunning Soon Valley, it enhances the film’s already immersive setting. The result is a vivid and unforgettable experience that leaves a lasting impression on the senses and the imagination.

“Kamli,” which means “mad” or “crazy” in Punjabi and Urdu, is a Pakistani drama film released in 2022 and directed by Sarmad Khoosat. The film features Saba Qamar in the lead role of Henna, who was abandoned by her husband shortly after their wedding. She is constantly watched over by her blind sister-in-law, Sakina, played by the talented Sania Saeed. The film also stars Nimra Bucha, Omair Rana, and newcomer Hamza Khawaja in prominent roles.

Kamli is a work that firmly places itself in the ranks of the creation of Ismat Chugtai and Manto, who dared to explore the previously uncharted territory of female desires. The movie takes us on a journey into the fascinating world of women’s physical desires. Unlike the emotional needs and companionship that are often the focus of discussions about women, Kamli delves into the raw and primal urges within the female psyche. By exploring this aspect of femininity, Kamli has made an invaluable contribution to cinema, opening the door to a deeper understanding of women’s experiences.

The topic of women’s sensuality is still widely considered taboo in society. Despite progress in various areas, there remains a discomfort in expressing this concept openly, resulting in it being pushed into the subconscious. Unfortunately, women have limited means to express their desires. This issue needs to be effectively addressed even as we move towards a future where artificial intelligence may replace human intelligence. Media often perpetuates the stereotype that women’s concerns only revolve around appearances, such as blow-dry hair, high heels, and skincare. However, this only scratches the surface of what women truly experience, and more must be done to understand and support them beyond these superficial standards.

One of the film’s standout features is its masterful incorporation of folktales and symbolism into the storyline. Through intelligent storytelling, the director takes the audience on a journey to the protagonist’s inner world that is unreachable physically but can be explored through imagination. By seamlessly blending these traditional storytelling elements with the modern narrative, the film creates a truly unique and captivating viewing experience. These intricate layers of meaning not only enhance the story’s depth and richness but also provide insights into the culture and beliefs that have shaped it. Overall, the film’s creative use of folklore and symbolism is a testament to the power of storytelling to transport Saba Qamar to places we never thought possible.

The portrayal of Henna’s thoughts and their interplay was remarkable. Our minds are not constrained by societal norms and values, and if allowed to wander freely, they can conjure up mental, emotional, and physical scenarios that closely resemble reality. However, these inner workings of the mind were distinctive to her. Although they influenced her actions, we, as the audience, were left to infer the intangible from the tangible, invisible from the visible.


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