Starring Vijay Raaz and Manu Rishi in lead roles,
advocates peace and is stoutly 'anti-war'. The partition of India is the crux of the film.
Here's a film where all you see is just four faces - Manu Rishi (playing Samarth Pratap, a cook attached to an Indian army unit posted at the border), Vijay Raaz (Rehmat Ali, a Pakistani soldier), Rajendranath Zutshi (Barfi Singh, a postman working for the Indian army) and Vishwajeet Pradhan (a captain with the Pakistani Army). But the film leaves an impact.
Many films have been made in the past that have dealt with the subject with great sensitivity (Deepa Mehta's Earth, Govind Nahaliani's TV series Tamas). There have also been films full of jingoism and melodrama.
But Kya Dilli Kya Lahore does better – it marries sensitivity with bits of angst and melodrama, when required.
The film begins with Jawaharlal Nehru's famous Tryst with Destiny speech even as the visuals move from the tricolour to the Partition massacre. The year is 1948.
crosses over to the Indian side, where Manu Rishi is posted, to steal a file about a tunnel being built by Indians from Red Fort (Delhi) to Lahore. Fearing that the Indians will attack Lahore, a Pakistani captain sends Vijay to find the map showing details of the tunnel.
As the film unfolds, we get to know the differences and similarities between two. Rehmat Ali is a Muslim who migrated from Delhi to Lahore during Partition while Samarth, a Hindu, has migrated from Lahore to Delhi. In the course of the film, audience is told of the humiliation Rehmat and Samarth are subjected to as they become 'refugees' in their new homelands.
As the film progresses, we get to hear a fair bit about Vijay and Manu as they recall their childhood in Delhi and Lahore respectively and get emotional. At other times, abuses fly freely, often gun shots are heard too as both argue over which side ditched whom and who is responsible for the massacre. There are philosophical exchanges on issues concerning power.
Sample a few interesting lines:
There's a scene where Vijay Raaz says Indian Standard Time is 30 minutes ahead of Pakistan, Manu quips: "Shukra hai rab ka, maane toh sahi ki India kisi cheez mein tumse aage hai!"
A few minutes later, Manu is shot in the arm and Vijay tells him, "Adha ghanta zyada jeena chahte ho toh Pakistan chal lo. Tumse adha ghanta peeche hain na hum!"
Remembering his days in old Delhi, Vijay says, "Ghar ki chhat pe chand aise nikalta tha jaise khaat pe aa girega. Lahore ke chand ne toh kabhi muh hi nai lagaya." To which Manu suggests, "Chal apne apne chaand badal lein."
In a sequence where Vijay is captive in the hands of Zutshi, the latter tells him, "Abe, Hindustani auzaar se ijjat se baat kar. Bol penchkasji maaf kar dein."
The story is a bit stretched in parts but the credible performances make it worth watching. Vijay Raaz deserves applause for picking a story based on Partition as his directorial debut and treating it sensitively.
But it is Manu Rishi who gets a nod from the audience. Many of his dialogues are greeted with a round of applause. Songs by Gulzar are a great value-add.
We have often watched Vijay Raaz in his many comic avatars. But such is the calibre of the actor that he makes this role completely believable.
Kya Dilli Kya Lahore may be a slow film but its climax will certainly touch you. Its poetic optimism will stay with you for long.
Watch the film for Gulzar's poetry, the performance of its lead pair and an amazing climax. Avoid it if you love pace and action. This one offers neither a fast-paced story nor is there any blood and gore.