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Kya Dilli Kya Lahore: Movie Review

by Poorva Bajaj (India)

Cinema was born to connect artists around the world. It is the only place where artists from all round the world can meet with mutual respect. It creates connections and supports cultural exchange across borders.

Cinema dates back to the 19th century where films were produced occasionally. However, with gradual development, it has turned out to be a great source of communication, and a powerful medium for instruction. It has become a tool for forming public opinion and framing the mindset of the society.

As the words of Oscar Wilde  “I regard cinema as the greatest of all art forms. The most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being” validates  the fact cinema has a deep-seated impact on an individual.

One of the best means for positive transformation and healing can be found in the form of a film. This is why I choose a film to write on – Kya Dilli Kya Lahore. There are times when you see a movie which is not just three hours of entertainment, but more than that – a movie that is a spectacular experience for the audience. Kya Dilli Kya Lahore is one such movie.

The one thing that is parallel to both India and Pakistan is the fondness for cinema. Mainstream movies in both India and Pakistan are built on the crux of partition. The word “Partition” mainly emphasize hatred of the “other” so as to signify the patriotism of “another”. However, this movie resides by the humane side of this cross-border conflict.

It is a poignant reminder of the barrenness of war, and the dreadful waste of human lives. The movie starts with Jawaharlal Nehru’s  Tryst with Destiny speech, and the visuals move from the tricolour to the partition massacre. Set in the year 1948, when the memories of the bloodbath of partition is still fresh, the movie tells the tale of an Indian soldier of Pakistani origin (Lahore) and a Pakistani soldier of Indian origin (Delhi), their fortuitous meeting, and the succeeding exchange of bullets and heartening words. As the movie progresses, the audience is told of the the humiliations they are subjected to, as they become refugees in their new homelands.

The film is a lighthearted take on Indo-Pak relations and talks about the bond between an Indian cook posted at the battalion named Samarth Pratap Shastri (Manu Rishi) and a Pakistani soldier named Rehmat Ali (Vijay Raaz) stationed at the Wagah border. Rehmat is a new induct in the Pakistani army, and is sent by his senior to get hold of a confidential document regarding a secret tunnel, from the Indian post. Rehmat moves towards the Indian camp, and his encounter with the cook Samarth is not only amusing but most disheartening.

The movie aspires to be a socio-political satire in the way it is written and edited. The conversation flows naturally – of their memories before partition, the struggles of the present life and the implanted beliefs of partition. They blame each other for the massacre created – destruction, mayhem, gun shots, murders, spoiling of relationships and peace. Both Samarth and Rehmat initiate their conversation with superiority and distrust, a common thing between Hindus and Muslims. However, as time passes they start feeling for each others’ pains.

The most touching scene comes when they recall their childhood memories – when Rehmat is reminded of the jalebis of Chandni Chowk in Delhi and Samarth is reminded of the Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore. The loss of their native places was clearly expressed by their sad faces, an emotion that most people experienced during partition.

As the movie continues, we see the air of hatred turning into compassion. When Samarth cooks aloo paratha for them, and they share their lives over the meal, borders become insignificant. Rehmat starts addressing Samarth as “bhaijaan”, and Samarth also reciprocates the same feeling. These foes-turned-friends also realize that they might be termed as traitors. They fear that their nationality might be questioned, as they are technically refugees and not natives. But they also realize that this hatred and conflict is because of political superiority and selfish leaders who are least concerned about the betterment of the country and its citizens. There are short philosophical discussions on the issues concerning power.

The ending of the movie is truly heart-wrenching when Rehmat shoots his Captain to save the innocent Samarth. They prove to be true friends divided by border but united by hearts. The climax proves to be a statement for their deep yet unspoken friendship and love.

The movie brings us face-to-face with the distress of a soldier. These conflicts and hatred have a very destructive impact on the lives of soldiers, keeping them pine for the love and comfort of their family. There’s one small stretch when there is complete silence between their talks, and that is when the audience can relate to their pain most intensely. The movie talks about peace without being preachy. The title of the movie signifies the spirit of unity between the two nations. Before partition, Delhi and Lahore were a symbol of peace and unity between the two nations. The movie emphasizes to bring back the same love and peace on both sides of the border. Indeed, kya Dilli and kya Lahore..!!

The stellar performance by the duo keeps us hooked. Even Raj Zutshi as Barfi Singh, a postman aspiring to be a soldier and Vishwajeet Pradhan as the dominating Pakistani captain, have done justice to their small roles in the film. The sharp and crisp dialogues throw up guffaws every now and then, presenting the serious note in a very subtle manner. Raaz has done really well in his first directorial debut and has made every character come across as humane – with Barfi reading the emotional letter for Samarth and through the Captain’s frustration about the leaders. Gulzar’s poetic excellence adds to the gravity of the film. His poetry reduces the borders to be mere lines stretched in anger.

The film has been taken positively by both Indian and Pakistani public. This proves that the people of both India and Pakistan long to be united at one undivided land. If cinema can be used as a medium of peace building and forming opinions, it can do wonders in bridging human differences. They give out a peaceful message and bring closer the people of different communities. The task of cinema is to engage the audience in his movie, and to instruct them on the issues which might be hard to convey through words. In the words of Satyajit Ray, “Cinema’s characteristic forte is its ability to capture and communicate the intimacies of the human mind”.

 Poorva Bajaj is from Kolkata, India. She is pursuing English honors and is a freelance Content Writer. She describes herself as an Inkslinger and peace lover.


Hatred Inc. – A Reflection on Kya Dilli Kya Lahore Movie

by Sabir Ali (Pakistan)

On 8th July, Aaghaz-e-Dosti had organised a screening of “Kya Dilli Kya Lahore” in Lowkei Lokai, Lahore. About 20-25 people had gathered for the screening. The screening was followed by a discussion. The discussion was moderated by Shoaib and centered around partition, the human aspect of war and conflict. 

Here is a reflection by Sabir Ali who had participated in the event:

Hatred Inc. 

It was just a stroke of pen that divided not only a land of co-existence into constantly conflicting pieces but also made defunct a wonderful civilization, distorted history, negated rich cultures, blotted hearts with hatred and filled minds with pseudo-identities.

We say that we created a new homeland but actually we partitioned a homeland, and partitioned it in a cruel way. Nearly a decade-long movement of rights ended up in boundaries marked with barbed wires. This politics of rights was introduced to us by imperial and colonial powers to make sub-continent a periphery of capitalist world-order. A position that granted us so many depravities and deprivations that are beyond measure and imagination. We have had to stick to this identity and since partition we are trying to justify and validate this identity.

This struggle of identity involves a number of contradictions so it seems to be futile. The idea of democracy and self-determination was non-existent in sub-continent. Our centuries-long history does not corroborate this concept. Being an imposition, we were forced to practice it prior to theorize it. This project is still unfinished because of this fact and remains a source of controversies and conflicts on either side of partition.

Democracy was a pre-requisite of nation-states to be created later. Colonial powers played their game well and certain concepts of human rights, self-determination, state, citizenship and governance were made popular through local intelligentsia. Popularity is not the guarantee of coherence and legitimacy. The practice of these concepts and its consequences continuously invites challenges, doubts and refutations because of inherent incoherency of these concepts. All these emerged from a single theory that was inception of certain influenced minds and strangely twisted. So strange an antifoundational theory became foundation of an ideological state. The theory was said to be based on religion and advocated separation in the name of a religion that itself vehemently rejects and refutes this idea. A religion that does not recognizes geographical borders based on nationality, the very same religion was made a base for nation and nation-state. A religion that invalidates even the concept of state was put forward to create and run a modern sovereign (theocratic) nation-state.

It is no surprise, then, that such a theory caused stratification among the inhabitants of sub-continent more specifically among the Muslims. How can a theory of separation and stratification be backed by a religion that makes global communal unity one of its primary doctrines? A specific class of us contemptuously blames mullah for Muslim factions but intelligently ignores the factions formed by state-borders. Jurisdictional sects are only four while the state-factions amount to fifty-eight. Who outnumbers? Obviously, the nationalists and their wonderful theorization of nationalism(s).

Nationalism makes it imperative to create pseudo-identities for citizens. Of course, the identity of being a Pakistani or Indian is a matter of geographical limits that were created haphazardly by a line first on the map then on the land. State creation is in fact a process of imposing constraints on humans and limiting their movements, thus, controlling their lives and therefore, making them more miserable than ever. This complex and hideous process of statecraft turns to be always profitable business that entails the manufacturing of commodities of citizens, patriots and traitors.

Citizen is a source of income for and servant of the state. Identification cards, passports, visas, multiple registration certificates and other emblems of patriotism are for the facilitation of state functioning but citizens pay heavy price for them. In other words, state creates citizens for its own ends but forces citizens to pay for this creation. It is safe to say that any benefit citizen receives is a by-product and inevitable outcome of state’s self-serving functions. Sate’s other mechanisms of protection and defense work on the basis of hatred for other (rival) state citizens. Partition will not work without this hatred. If there is no enemy, there is no defense, and hence, no patriotism. Rivalry with other states has become raison d’être for state’s existence. Imagine the absence of hatred between Pakistan and India; hundreds of thousands will lose prestige, income, worth, status, terror and temper. So, hatred is preached and propagated, love is condoned and condemned. Bunker is for the love of banker.

Every citizen is manufactured by erecting border-lines. Nationality becomes supreme identity making all other essential identities irrelevant. This identity is the need of the state not of the human who inevitably and unfortunately happens to come under the state jurisdiction. Other identities are more relevant to the citizens but of no use to state. This fact is the source of alienation and erosion of humanist traits. Thus, a national identity that is simultaneously supreme and trivial imposes a pseudo-identity on the individual. Individual’s natural and imposed identities never come into compatibility. All the circumstances and realities reinforce these opposing identities under different sorts of pressure. The result is confusion, contradiction, alienation, anomie, volatile passions, loss of identity and thus the ‘pursuit of identity’.

When two citizens from rival or conflicting states face each other standing on border-lines, each of them undergoes a panic of dual confrontation. They share the same lifeworld but just a single step beyond the line and the scenario is changed. Just a line of half-step width on the land becomes sole determiner of life and loyalty. Watch your step, because if you take this step, there is violation of sovereignty of sacred hatred, you will become a legitimate victim and your slaughter will be saluted. This life-threat is the result of nationality by that person who shares your lifeworld and is experiencing the same feelings. A person for whom you would have sacrificed your own life if the pretext of borderline was not there. At this point partition appears a grim reality manufactured by the business of state. The cover of state and imposition of its institutions compel you to prove your patriotism for the sake of state. On the other hand, your natural love for the citizen before you compel to do otherwise. If you do otherwise, you are a genuine traitor.

But what is the authenticity and legitimacy of these labels and what is the source and measure of authenticity? Loyalty and disloyalty are determined by the state that has no reference other than itself; thus, has monopoly in this domain. State requires patriots for its protection, service, legitimacy, functioning and existence. State has nothing to do other than manufacturing patriots and setting its own manufacturing standards. Logically, this leads identifying the enemies and labeling the citizens as traitors and terrorists. In the prevalence of only patriots, partition cannot be a useful commodity for state. So, state has to do this labelling every now and then.

Training the patriots against supposed and indoctrinated (by other similar states) enemies and suppressing them in the name of protection is the whole business states are running and citizens are serving.

Citizens have their own standards of patriotism but a citizen is not an authorized entity to decide her fate and is quite helpless in comparison to the state power and its authority. This marginalization of citizen’s natural authority and emotions again leads to (temporary) disenchantment with state benefits. He is sandwiched between national identity and his own personal identity. State given identity is pseudo-identity because it is imposed, volatile, abstract and often in transition. Since it runs against the history and lived experiences of the individual, it is hard to conceptualize and materialize. It is impossible to forget who we are and to internalize and emphasize who we have to become. Everyone is quite sure that one will die as man or woman but no one is sure that he or she will die as a citizen he or she is right now. This is the reality of peripheral entities turned into central ones.

Therefore, partition of subcontinent was a political issue entailing the imposition of identity of patriotism. Citizens in both states now have to prove their loyalties along with other things to be proved and expressed. Imagine the old man (or woman) who slept on 13th August 1947 and in the morning, to his (her) surprise, his (her) identity was changed; now he (she) had to avow his (her) allegiance to a new power in addition to the existing ones. how can one undo one’s whole life and history? This is the problem we are facing at the individual and social level.

If we accept the theory of two nations, express eternal hatred for each other and make national state our prime identity then what about pre-partition men and women and their history? Had our whole history in the subcontinent gone wrong? Had our ancestors lead their lives clinging on wrong beliefs and practices and living with wrong and bad sort of persons? Who told us all this? Again, this wrong turn and anachronism forces us to go ahead. If we say that that theory was wrong, then we have to accept the responsibility of the brave deeds done in its name. The burden of several millions of casualties explicitly shifts to our shoulders. Our feeble and fragile bodies cannot bear this strain and our moral incompetence cannot handle this. Now it has become a matter of ego, arrogance, stubbornness and of course, of business. We have distorted our history and now it is quite safe and even profitable to continue with these and further distortions. May be the state is not supposed to listen truth, so I beg its mercy.

Sabir Ali is a Lahore-based researcher, content writer and translator. His translated works include Development Dictionary, Does Capitalism have a future?, Historical Capitalism among several others. He can be reached at 

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