Direction: Vijay Raaz
Actors: Vijay Raaz, Manu Rishi, Raj Zutshi
If good intentions were enough to make a good film, then Kya Dilli Kya Lahore would be a winner. Written by Aseem Arora and directed by Vijay Raaz, the film is about Rehmat Ali, a low-ranking Pakistani solider, and Samarth Pratap, an Indian Army cook. It’s 1948. Their paths cross at the border. They first try to kill each other but eventually, as they spend time together, discover their shared humanity. It’s a compelling idea, laid low by ineffectual execution.
Raaz, who also plays the Pakistani soldier, sets most of the action around one army chowky. I counted only four characters with dialogue. Most of the film consists of Ali and Pratap, played by Manu Rishi, exchanging insults, memories and family anecdotes.
To underscore their common tragedy, Arora gives opposing backstories to his leads. So Rehmat is a Delhi resident who moved to Pakistan during Partition, and Pratap is a Lahore boy whose family now lives in a refugee camp in Delhi.
Some of their exchanges are moving, but both strain too hard to be both poignant and poetic. Since everything happens in the same space — basically a cabin in Fiji posing as the Wagah border — the film quickly becomes visually monotonous. The plot might have made good theatre, but as cinema, it is staggeringly tedious.
In the second half, Raj Zutshi enters as the Army postman. He screams up a storm but doesn’t accomplish much.
Kya Dilli Kya Lahore demands that we stay interested in only two actors for almost two hours. Under any circumstances, that’s a tall order.