It is not often than you find people walk out of the theater in silence. Happens either when they don’t know how to react, or are just bowled over with emotions. As I left the hall after watching Kya Dilli Kya Lahore I was one among majority who walked out, silent.
Jingoisms have never been rare on the silver screen. There have been scores of filmmakers who have made profits from the volatile emotions that Indians and Pakistanis share. Amidst these there have been a few odds who have tried to differ. None however, if I may be allowed to say so, have managed to evoke the emotions as Kya Dilli Kya Lahore does.
Set in the era right after India and Paksitan earned their independence from the British and the subsequent partition, KDKL tells that the tale of two army men – a Pakistani and an Indian. But what the film essentially does is betray the feeling of millions of people who moved across the border, leaving their lives and loved ones behind, into the other country. Each in a need to make a new name for himself; a new home for himself! And also, probably, trying to prove that they are as much an Indian/ Pakistani as the ones who did not have to cross the border to embrace their new nationality. In the meanwhile the people in power pit both the countries and its people against each other – forcing them to forget that they were indeed brothers just a while back!
In a cross border firing, Pakistani solider Rehmat Ali (Vijay Raaz) and Indian army-man Samarth Pratap (Manu Rishi) end up pitted against each other at an isolated location. The ensuing conversation builds is what the film is all about.
From a filmmaking point of view, this film is an out and out writer’s job. The screenplay is evidently woven around the dialogues rather than the other way round. To a point that it almost feels too dialogue-heavy a film! But that’s where the capability of the writers steps. The three screenplay writers Manu Rishi, Aseem Arora and Pratham Jolly together manages to keep the film flowing smoothly and also from seeming longer than it actually is. It surely is difficult to write a film with only four characters, two of which are cameos.
And the characters etch out beautifully, more so because of the dazzling performances. Vijay Raaz and Manu Rishi manages to make the audience smile, gasp, cry and sympathise with them… and also makes one reflect on how things have not really changed over 60 years since Independence. The citizens of both countries are still as much a pawn in the hands of destiny! Raaj Zusthi delivers and so does a usually sidelined Vishwajit Pradhan.
Leaving aside the fact that it is unmistakably inspired by the Oscar winning No Man’s Land, Kya Dilli Kya Lahore is an emphatic directorial debut for Vijay Raaz. The actor who has often made me laugh left me speechless with his thoughtful work. But it is not he alone who deserves a pat. This film is as much the writers’ victory. And of course the producer who bet his money on it and for sticking to his belief for over two years after the completion of the film and not giving up on it! Like the popular Hindi saying – der aaye, durust aaye. When the nation is amidst polls and also discussing how would the new government look at its ties with the Pakistani government, the film could not have come at a better time!
And finally, the claps for Gulzar – his poetry sets the tone for the film even before it takes off. Lakeerein hai toh rehne do… Do yourself a favour. Buy a ticket for this one!