Filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra has given a lengthy reply to an open letter that critiqued his latest film, “Shikara”. The letter was penned by Kashmiri media students.
Last month, the students had reviewed his latest film. They had said that “although the story beautifully justifies the title, Shikara, its tagline, ‘The Untold Story of Kashmiri Pandits’, is misleading since any viewer would assume that the movie will provide a deeper insight into the sufferings of the Pandit community. However, the sufferings are shown in the backdrop of the love story and not at the forefront. The compromise in the movie of forming home anywhere is again bleak and unrealistic”.
Addressing the students, Vidhu Vinod Chopra wrote: “Dear Arbeena and Asif, #EidMubarak to you and everyone else in #Kashmir! I read your review of my film #Shikara in the Kashmir Observer. I liked the approach you have taken to present your views. Shikara is a tribute to my mother. It is my mother’s story.”
Vidhu Vinod Chopra even mentioned that the Kashmiri Pandit exodus that happened 30 years ago is a “dark blot on our history”, adding: “It is a very sensitive topic. What happened was wrong. People were thrown out of their homes and their city. Yes, there were external forces which created this unfortunate divide but it is still unresolved”.
He also touched upon the reasons behind the change in release date of the film.
“Shikara was ready in mid-2019. We had initially thought of releasing it in October 2019 but due to the decision to abrogate #Article370 by Government of India, we delayed its release. We waited for a few months and then set a date of February 7th 2020 for the release.”
And once it hit the screens, Vidhu Vinod Chopra was excited to get viewer feedback. “I walked into a packed theatre for one of the first screenings. Three hundred people stood up and applauded. Suddenly one lady screamed that the film wasn’t representative of her pain. I was accused of commercialising the tragedy.”
“I spent many days thinking about what she said. And I realise that what she wanted was more hate. She wanted a film that demonised Muslims, and that sowed even more animosity and bloodshed.”
He concluded by saying: “Arbeena and Asif, you are the future. The way you shape your thinking will go a long way in having a progressive and peaceful Kashmir. I have seen my home destroyed by hate. Do not let it consume you. I want the future of Kashmir to be different from its past. Insha Allah!”