Filmmaker-producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra has lashed out at people criticising his new film “Shikara”. He says those who have accused him of commercialising the plight of Kashmiri Pandits in the film are “gadhe” (donkeys).
“‘3 Idiots’, which I produced earned Rs 33 crore on its first day of release, and we knew the first-day collection of ‘Shikara’ will be 30 lakh. Despite that, we gave 11 years of our life to make this film. I feel today things are very funny because I’ve made films that collected Rs 30 crore on its first day, and when I make a film that collects Rs 30 lakh on its first day in the memory of my mother, people say I have commercialised the pain of Kashmiri people. I feel people who think that way are gadhe (donkeys), and that’s why I want to tell you, don’t be donkeys. First see the film and then form your opinions,” Chopra said during a visit to Mumbai’s KC College to promote “Shikara” along with the film’s lead cast Aadil Khan and Sadia.
“Shikara” is about the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in early 1990, in the wake of violent Islamist insurgency. The film was highly anticipated because the veteran filmmaker Chopra hails from the state.
After the film’s release, however, certain sections of people called out the film and its director Chopra. A video of a Kashmiri Pandit woman lashing out at the director at a screening in Delhi went viral. Calling it a “ghatiya” film and disowning it, she is seen saying the movie was too commercialised and not authentic.
The hashtag #BoycottShikara started trending on Twitter, and people were accusing Chopra of going soft on the subject rather than give an unflinching account of the horrific atrocities that Kashmiri Pandits suffered.
Chopra said renowned Hollywood filmmaker James Cameron has praised his film: “This film opened with great reviews everywhere. I presume you would have heard about a man called James Cameron who has directed ‘Titanic’ and ‘Avatar’. He called this film as a masterpiece in a four-page letter. In India, the film released to full houses and great reviews. Then, suddenly all this hate wave comes up.”
He added: “I am not on Twitter or on any social media. What came as a big surprise for us is that our rating on IMDb, which was around eight or nine, dropped to one. We found that on all these social media platforms, people have started putting up videos and saying ‘this how you press the button to give the film a one-star rating’.”
Chopra said “Shikara” is close to his heart: “This is a very special film and this film talks about events that happened even before all of you (students) were born. Around 30 years back, four lakh Kashmiris were thrown out of their homeland, and my mother was one of them. I am technically a refugee in my own country because I am from Kashmir.”
He added that he never compromised on anything while making films in his career. “All my life I have never compromised on films I have made, whether it is ‘3 Idiots’ or the ‘Munna Bhai’ series or ‘Shikara’. In every film, I tried and give you guys a message. In ‘Munna Bhai’, I talked about ‘Jaadu ki jhappi’ and in ‘3 Idiots’ I gave critical advice to students, to chase excellence and success will follow. I am happy to say that many lives changed with that film,” he pointed out.
Chopra felt “Shikara” would have the same impact. “In the same way, in ‘Shikara’ we have a message that says, ‘todo nahin, jodo’ (don’t break, unite) because we are at a stage in life where it is becoming a norm to say, ‘don’t unite, break’. Everything is breaking, be it systems or cities. I would urge you to watch this film and spread the message of this film because you (students) are the future. If you like the films, then go to social media and fix that rubbish (criticism about Shikara), and if you don’t like the film then also remember message of the film,” he said.
Chopra on Sunday had penned an open letter on Facebook to counter all criticism against his film. In the letter, the filmmaker elaborated on the sufferings that he, along with his family members, had to suffer when they were driven out of their homeland as a result of being targeted by Islamist insurgents three decades ago. He described the accusations as “nonsensical” and also urged people to not repeat past mistakes.