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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.

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