Speaking to the Constituent Assembly in 1947, MA Zinnia presented his vision for the country: “If you change your past and work in the spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what his color, caste, or creed is first, second, and last a citizen of his State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make” (McDermott, Gordon et. Al. 759). In subsequent months, the constitutional debates revealed the deep divisions that existed within the country.
Less than 2 years after Jinni’s speech, the Objectives Resolution held that Islam was to be the guiding force in Pakistanis political life. Still later, the Minor Report of 1953 concluded that an Islamic state was anathema to the ideals of political modernity and that Pakistan ought to be a liberal secular state. These two conceptions of religion set up a constitutive tension in which Salami’s political significance becomes ambivalent – as doctrinally inflexible, historically anachronistic, and therefore incommensurable with modern statehood.
This existential tension is visualized in Sabina Sumac’s film Shampoo Pain (Silent Waters). Set in a Punjabi village near Rawlins, it tells the story of Ayes, a widow raising her teenage son Salami in 1 979 just after General Sis’s military coup. They enjoy a mostly serene existence until radical Psalmists arrive from Lahore to induct new recruits for the jihad cause and to propagate the Colonization of the country.
Initially dismissive of the zealots’ dour persona, the impressionable Salami is taken in by the sheer forcefulness of their rhetoric, frustrated as he is by the lack of opportunities offered by his circumstances, and perhaps threatened by the educational ambitions of his girlfriend Subside. The arrival in the village of Sikh pilgrims, coupled with Salami’s growing anger and intolerance, leads to the revelation of long-buried and horrific secrets within his own family, ending with Ayes making the sacrifice that she wasn’t ready to make in the turmoil of Partition.
The painful meaning Of the film’s title becomes dreadfully clear. Several scenes depict the social transformation that takes place in Pakistan during this period: the adolescent romance of Salami and Subside to the knowledge of others in the village, Subsidy’s simple dreams of creating her own wealth with “a mixer, a ceiling fan, and a job in a big office”, a colorful wedding replete with music, dance, and drinking.
With the arrival of fundamentalist forces, however, we sense the burgeoning air of terror and story in the village: the postman’s fearful observation that “no matter what has happened, you never hang a Prime Minister’, the chatty barber being warned when he jokes about the General and his grooming ritual , the wall around the girls’ school being raised, shops being forced to close during amaze, the Sikh pilgrims being bullied by the zealots while at prayer, and Ayes being ostracizes unless she publicly declares her unsullied Muslim identity.
The character of Salami is remarkable in his ability to project both confused aggression and intense vulnerability. His transition from the natural joy of a carefree, flute-playing young man in love in the first part of the film, to the indoctrinated and sullen faux brute of the second demonstrates the process by which political ideology leads to social transformation. His personal sense of crisis through the process is revealed in scenes such as when Salami lets his propaganda fliers float into the stream, and then shoots them in frustration, or asks his mother why she isn’t proud of him.
Shampoo Pain is as much Salami’s story as it is Essay’s: a woman first scarred y the ferocious tearing apart of her family and homeland, only to be devastated years later when her son is taken from her by the new claimants of the same destructive forces. Through traumatic flashbacks, the film reveals the violence of Partition in which many women were killed by their own families or forced to commit “suicide” to protect their “honor” from rape by other men.
Unable to protect “his” women from rape, Veer’s father chooses such a method of maintaining their “purity” and retaining the community’s masculinity. Helpless against the chaos around them, and unable to secure retention from the state, communities frequently resorted to such ritualistic executions. Such practices suggest a desire to control their destiny; a desire for agency that took women’s bodies to be a site for preservation. Every refuses this fate and instead submits to violence by men from the other community and dislocation from her own.
At the same time, she claims space for herself, as Muslim Ayes, in her ancestral village Charka, now located in Pakistan. The film also connects local suffering to global power. The events of 1979 that engulf Charka involve global politics, as two superpowers, the United States ND the Soviet Union, struggle for world dominance. Politicized Islam is used to generate cadres of young men willing to join the American-led jihad in Afghanistan. The internalizing of these macro processes is remarkable.
In an early scene, one of the organizers from Lahore reminds his stauncher companion: “we’re here not to fight but to convince”. Reaffirmation of religion within Pakistan helps identify those who will be transformed into holy warriors. During this process, communal divisions are deployed to recognize those who belong to the polity and those who are outsiders. The importance of Shampoo Pain lies in presenting politicized Islam and its connection to communality and social transformation as a process.
It serves as an important critique of state-sponsored religion and its effects on people’s lives. The film simultaneously threads some of the most controversial and emotionally blistering issues of Partition, communality, the indoctrination of disaffected youth, and what it means to be female, especially in times of conflict. The simple narrative about a widow in a Pakistani village and her boy is extraordinarily effective.