Sunday, May 4, 2014

Kya Dilli Kya Lahore Review

The Reunion

Just when you relax in your seat after standing up for National Anthem that mandatorily plays in Maharashtra theaters before every show and which is supposed to make you feel proud about being an Indian, you are thrown into some disturbing images that tell what had gone into claiming our nationality as this film starts. Those images are of the tragic Partition that followed our Independence, of which, I'm sure, not many- from both the divided countries- are proud. 

Gulzar Saab's poem in his husky voice follows with the opening credits. He is rightfully presenting the film, as he has lived that tragic period. His works on The Partition (Raavi Paar, Dhuaan) are metaphorical constructions of the concept of the living and the dead and their identities. Kya Dilli Kya Lahore (written and directed by Vijay Raaz) is similarly an unlikely story of two alike soldiers from the warring countries meeting on a war-front. 

This single-line plot reminds us of Danis Tanović's Oscar winner No Man's Land (2001). But it had huge dramatic turns of events that made some political statements. Kya Dilli... is more an intimate film. The two soldiers here (Manu Rishi playing the Indian too theatrically, wearing a similar round spectacles like that of Serbian soldier from Tanović's film; and Vijay Raaz as the Pakistani one) engage in abusive banters and calling each other bhaijaan while listening to each other's life history. It is then after the exchange of few bullets, they realize that their hometowns too have been exchanged. And they are not really different from each other... their vulnerabilities as a low-grade soldier, their fear of being alone are quite alike.

Raaz, as writer-director, refrains from making any political statements here. The politics of Partition are touched upon just superficially in this entirely conversational film. Raaz, known for his candid portrayal of characters he play, deals his film with quite similar fashion- unexpected humor, casual dialogues between the opponent soldiers. But that casualness also invites a criticism about the realism of the film. Like, that exchange of silver chain and watch. Also, it is set in the 1948 war and the base where the men unite has all its soldiers' dead but only one left (The presence of army is only in an abstract shot or over telephone). That flimsy file. Everything looks conveniently staged. It even has intentions like that of a theater play with its only four cast members. It has a hauling old-school filmmaking. The editing could have been more artful, and the camerawork, more astute. But, that's not where the film wants to score. It has a larger and more important point to make. It is not a war film, after all. In retrospect, it is a "peace film". Or as Gulzar Saab puts it in the opening credits-that metaphorically explains the film:
"Lakeerein hain toh rehne do;
kisine rooth kar, gusse mein shayad,
kheench di thi.
Inhi ko ab banao pala;
aur aao kabaddi khelte hain!"

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