Partition is one of those unresolved issues that continues to occupy the mindspace on both sides of the border with creative people looking to find a closure to the wound. This week actor Vijay Raaz takes to direction with the subject. The intention is laudable but the execution leaves much to be desired. It is a verbose attempt to underline the futility of war. It deserved to be mounted on the big stage but the writing is more suitable for theatre than celluloid.
Set in 1948, Samarth (Manu Rishi) is a cook attached to the Indian army. He takes on Rehmat (Vijay Raaz), a Pakistani soldier sent to bring the secret files about a clandestine Indian operation to dig a tunnel between Delhi’s Red Fort and Lahore. The two talk more than fight and gradually discover over a period of time that they have more similarities than differences. It was expected to give goosebumps but after a few thought-provoking lines, the narrative falls into a pattern where the two talk out reams of paper. There is very little space for silence in a setting where the two engage in a verbal spat from a distance. It seems ideal for the stage but the pitch creates predictability on big screen.
With the films based on Partition, establishing a sense of nostalgia and loss is a given, and here when Samarth talks of his childhood in Lahore and Rehmat rewinds to his past in Delhi, we get the point. When they talk of exchanging their moons, one can feel the lyrical presence of Gulzar, who has also presented the film, in the background but somehow the film fails to get to the next level.
The appearance of Raj Zutshi as the Indian postman and Biswajeet Pradhan as the Pakistani Captain on the scene gives hope but once again they flicker only to establish what you already know about such stories. There are no surprises in store. It is easy to get into No Man’s Land but what you do there determines your ability to engage the public. Vijay is honest in his effort as an actor and with Manu manages to hit some right notes but as a director it turns out to be a laboured attempt.
Kya Dilli Kya Lahore
Cast: Vijay Raaz, Manu Rishi, Raj Zutshi, Biswajeet Pradhan
Plot: Two soldiers from either side of the border spar only to discover that they have more similarities than differences.
Bottomline: A skit has been stretched to screenplay.