ANINDITA ACHARYA, Kolkata: Vidhu Vinod Chopra is pained that his integrity as a filmmaker is being questioned. This comes at a time when a video of a Kashmiri Pandit woman lashing out at Chopra at a screening of his latest film, Shikara: The Untold Story of Kashmiri Pandits in Delhi has gone viral. In the video, the woman can be seen screaming at Chopra, who was present at the theatre to get a public review of the film. She slammed the Parinda and 1942: A Love Story filmmaker for “commercialising the conditions of Kashmiri Pandits.” She also said Chopra hasn’t presented the real suffering of the Pandits, which includes mass brutality, murders by Islamic radical groups in Shikara. The woman said, “Ye aapka commercialism aapko mubarakh ho. As a Kashmiri Pandit, I disown your film. I disown it.”
Chopra, who was in Kolkata for the special screening of Shikara with writer Abhijat Joshi (the screenwriter for Shikara, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, 3 Idiots, PK, and Sanju), and debutant actors Aadil Khan, Sadia, on Saturday at a city hotel told Bulletin Hours that he is hurt that the people are questioning his integrity even after knowing the kind of films (read Munna Bhai, 3 Idiots and PK) he has done.
“The people who are questioning my integrity should question themselves why would Vidhu Vinod Chopra make a film for 11 years and not make Munna Bhais, knowing fully well that instead of a Rs 30- 40 crore opening he would get a Rs 30 lakh opening with Shikara. This is because of the simple fact that they won’t understand what I have done in my life. I believe in this film. And what pains me immensely that after having given 11 years of my life to my mother’s story and to lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits, my integrity as a filmmaker is being questioned,” said the Mission Kashmir director-producer.
When asked about the Delhi woman who lashed out at him after watching Shikara, Chopra said, “There were 300 people in the theatre. Out of which 288 people were clapping after watching the film. And by the way, after she broke down, it was me who said the others to clap for her too. She has own point of view and I respect her view. If out of 100 per cent, 99 per cent are praising the film and one per cent is critical, it’s okay,” he said.
To calm down the lady, Chopra said he will work on a sequel to the film. And for those who have questioned why the director hasn’t portrayed mass brutality on the Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 in the film, Chopra said, “That’s another film. Please go ahead and make it. But the message of my film wouldn’t be conveyed if I would have made it. To me, violence is faceless. On January 19, 1990, you didn’t see one face. You saw shadows. People who can see that… I am grateful to them. What is the purpose of hate? Where will hate lead us? If someone wants to show, he/she can sell it. I can’t.”
Chopra, who had last directed Eklavya: The Royal Guard in 2007, had left Kashmir 30 years ago. But he started working on the film after his mother passed away in 2007. The story of Shikara focuses on a married couple — Shiv Kumar Dhar and Shanti Dhar (Aadil and Sadia) —against the backdrop of the Kashmiri Pandit exodus. Chopra has dedicated the film to his mother, who always wanted to return to her homeland Kashmir but couldn’t.
The maker expected the film to open at Rs 30 lakh on day one. “And I am used to my films opening at Rs 30-40 crore on first day. But we opened at Rs 1.20 crore on day one,” he smiled.
Having been born in Jammu and Kashmir, it wasn’t an easy task for Chopra to document the reality of Kashmiri Pandits on celluloid. And since he had been living with the story for 30 years, there were moments when he had tear in his eyes. But Chopra broke down when he saw Shikara for the first time in New Zealand with Titanic and Avatar maker James Cameron. “I was in New Zealand and asked the team to send the print there. I watched it with Cameron. After the screening, he told me Shikara reminded him of his favourite film, Doctor Zhivago. He called Shikara ‘a masterpiece’ and it was then when I broke down,” said the Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. writer and producer.