No compromising on Kashmiri Pandits' story

Updated: Jan 11, 2020, 07:35 IST | Upala KBR | Mumbai

Shikara director Vidhu Vinod Chopra ropes in Kashmiri Pandits to lend authenticity to film revolving around 1990s exodus from the Valley

Aadil Khan and Sadia in Shikara
Aadil Khan and Sadia in Shikara

For his return to direction after 13 years with Shikara, filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra has chosen a subject that stems from a chapter of his life — the movie revolves around the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in the 1990s. To lend authenticity to the real-life episode, the director decided to rope in Kashmir-born Aadil Khan and Sadia as the leads, while zeroing in on several Kashmiri Pandits for the principal cast.

Explaining his decision, Chopra says, "If I were to cast artistes from Mumbai to play the refugees, the film would lose its authenticity. It was generous of the inhabitants of the Jagti refugee camp [in Jammu] to agree to be part of this movie. We held auditions in Jammu, following which those shortlisted were flown down to Mumbai. Here, they had to undergo several rounds of auditions." Interestingly, Sadia, who was studying in Jammu, was helping casting director Indu Sharma in roping in locals for the ensemble cast. "Indu felt that Sadia would be the perfect fit [for the female lead]. However, her family had their own set of inhibitions [about her being part of a movie]. I had to make long video calls to convince her family. It helped immensely that I spoke in Kashmiri," laughs the filmmaker. Since the cast primarily included real-life people who had no acting background, Chopra reveals they were made to undertake several workshops over two years to hone their skills.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra

Though he has written the story with Rahul Pandita and Abhijat Joshi, the filmmaker describes the project as a "recreation of his life". "It is inspired by my mother's story — she had come to Mumbai, with only one suitcase, for Parinda's [his film] premiere in 1990. But she could not return to Kashmir until almost a decade later."

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