Srinagar, Nov 9: Miffed at the frequent crowd trouble, controversies and 'unfriendly' authorities, crew of the much-hyped film on Kashmir, 'Lamhaa' stopped its shooting in the Valley and flew to Mumbai on Sunday with 'nightmarish' memories from the valley.
The film starring leading Bollywood actors, Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu, Anupam Kher and Kunal Kapoor is directed by the Rahul Dholakia of critically acclaimed 'Parzania' fame which depicted the Gujarat riots in 2002. Incidentally, the film earned Dholakia prestigious National Film Award.
Dholakia claims that through 'Lamhaa', he wants to clear pre-conceived notions about Kashmir and highlight the human rights violations by the troops. But the film evoked strong resentment from the traders and some people who objected to loading of toy guns in apple trucks during its shooting at Parimpora here.
However, the crew decided to pack up from the Valley after thousands of people reportedly gheraoed the sets on seeing Bipasha Basu during shooting at Tagore Hall and south Kashmir's Islamabad district.
Sources said Bipasha was so scared by facing the large crowd that she hurriedly flew to Mumbai on Saturday, Sources said Dholakia decided to pull out his crew from Kashmir after consultation with Sanjay Dutt who arrived in the Valley on Saturday.
"We decided to leave the Valley after facing repeated interruptions in our shooting Some of our crew members, including Bipasha, after the crowd trouble, had reservations to continue shooting in Kashmir, so we have no option but to return to Mumbai," Dholakia told Greater Kashmir in an exclusive interview.
Dholakia dismissed the reports that the film is anti-Kashmiri. He said the film is purely pro-Kashmir as it is based on true incidents of human rights violations and the agony of Kashmiris at the hands of troops.
"Our trouble started after some people in the crowd made presumptions that we are depicting Kashmiris as militants by showing guns in some scenes. But through the film I wanted to depict that Kashmiris are emotional, sensitive and fine human beings who have been cheated by the successive regimes," he said.
Dholakia said he conducted research and met the victims of rights abuses in Kashmir for past two years. "I was in tears after meeting the women whose husbands, sons and brothers, went missing in custody of troops. There is also a scene in the film about the half-widows of Dardpora in Kupwara. Despite probability of backlash from some groups in India, I took the challenge to show how security agencies have been unleashing reign of terror on innocent Kashmiris."
Dholakia said prior to the shooting he narrated the script to the Hurriyat leaders, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
"They were elated to hear the script and extended support to us. We had also briefed the civil and police authorities about the shootings. The Tourist Department, particularly its special research officer, Shahnawaaz Ahmad, provided us with all the logistical support. But nothing went right for the film," he said.
Dholakia said the film has a number of scenes showing harassment of Kashmiris by troops. "In one scene, we show the troops asking the people to prove their identity and other such painful incidents. Is this my crime?," he asked.
Pertinently, Kunal Kapoor plays the role of former militant commander and senior Hurriyat leader, Shahid-ul-Islam, in the film and Anupam Kher has shades of Geelani in his character.
The crew shot a scene of Mirwaiz giving sermon in Jamia Masjid on Friday during the Ramazan. The crew also conducted the shooting at famous hill stations Pahalgam and Gulmarg, Nishat Garden and Dal Lake.
"It was on my invitation that Dholakia came to Kashmir and did extensive research for the script. As a Kashmiri, I did not find anything offensive against Kashmiris in the script. The crew left with nightmarish memories from the paradise," said Dholakia's friend, Anil Raina.
However, the film faced trouble not only from the people but police too. "We assembled at Lal Chowk to shoot the curfew scene during the Jamia Masjid Chalo call on November 6. However, some unfriendly cops did not allow us to shoot citing section 144. Bollywood would think twice before shooting in Kashmir. I feel Kashmiris have lost a great chance to portray their aspirations and sufferings," Raina maintained.
Sources said the film will now be shot on sets resembling Kashmir in the Film City Mumbai. The director has reportedly approached, Wasiq Khan, who has earlier rendered his service in films based on Kashmir situation, like 'Tahaan' and 'Yahaan.'
However, Dholakia said he will visit Kashmir again in winter. "Facing unruly crowds and challenging situations is part and parcel of our work. But when a section of crowd gets out of control, we lose concentration and nothing works. We've lost lot of money due to repeated postponements of shootings. People of Kashmir in general have cooperated with us during the shootings and I have no complaints regarding them. I promise to visit Kashmir and shoot in snow."