For veteran filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, it has not been an easy task to bring to the silver screen a story from the land of his roots while completely remaining unbiased. His latest film “Shikara: The Untold Story Of Kashmiri Pandits” is set against the backdrop of the Kashmiri Pandit exodus from the Kashmir Valley in late 1989 and early 1990, in the wake of violent Islamist insurgency.
“I have done much work in all these years but this was perhaps my most challenging as I had to remain dispassionate as a moviemaker to depict the truth, and yet make a compelling argument that the only solution to such hatred is love That is at the centre of my movie. The love between Shiv Kumar Dhar and Shanti (the protagonists), Shanti is also my mother’s name by the way, is a binding factor which forces us to think beyond hatred,” said Chopra.
When quizzed what took so long to make the film since it’s been 30 years since he left Kashmir, the filmmaker replied: “I started work on this post my mother’s demise in 2007. The Kashmiri Pandit exodus is a known issue but the complexities and the build-up of events that led to the driving away of the Kashmiri Pandits is not known. This movie required significant research so that we could tell an absorbing story which is fact-based and helps in bringing this conversation to the fore.”
“The shoot was mostly in Kashmir, which was under heavy security cover so we had limited time to get work done. Authenticity was the key,” he added.
The filmmaker also explained how difficult was the process of writing the story for the big screen for the movie which marks his comeback to the direction in Bollywood after 13 years.
“The writing also took significant time as I had to sift through tons of documentation and video footage to bring reality to celluloid. This movie was difficult to write. I worked with Abhijat Joshi and Rahul Pandita for several years before I could bring it to life.”
Hailing from Jammu and Kashmir, Vidhu Vinod Chopra wants peace to return to the valley, just as it was in his growing up years. Given a chance, would he feel safe to resettle there?
“Unequivocally yes. For me, it is more important than peace, love and affection returns to the valley. Those bonds which existed between communities are reconnected and we live happily forever,” said Chopra.
He also commented on the current scenario of the Valley. “I go there every year. The land is still as beautiful as it was, but demographically it has changed because a lot of Pandits have left. So it’s not the same. It’s become slightly desolate, and that hits you sometimes. I hope and pray that someday it goes back to how it was.”
The filmmaker urges youngsters specifically to watch the movie because he feels they should learn about the valley’s tense history, how Kashmir became what it is today.
“It is an extremely important part of history which has not been spoken about and documented well enough for people to know. There is a great saying ‘If you don’t know history, you are condemned to repeat it’. I urge the youth to go and see this movie to learn about the Pandit exodus and see how love can conquer all hate,” he said, adding, “For me, this is not just a movie. It is a movement of sorts, to make the entire nation realise the trauma this community experienced and the sheer helplessness with which they have been packed off in various refugee camps across the country.”
“Shikara: The Untold Story Of Kashmiri Pandits” marks the Bollywood debut of actors Aadil Khan and Sadia who essay the lead roles. The film is scheduled to release on February 7.