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New Bollywood film preaches love between army, Kashmiris

By Hindol Sengupta, IANS

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A new film on Kashmir is depicting a troubled love affair between a Kashmiri girl and a young Indian Army officer set against the beauty and bleakness of the insurgency-ravaged state.

"In reality, this can never happen," 36-year-old ad filmmaker Shoojit Sirkar told IANS on telephone from Mumbai about his debut feature film.

"In reality, if a Kashmiri girl falls in love with an Indian Army officer, she will probably be murdered by the elders in her family - but that's why I wanted this story.

"I believe we must stretch the boundaries of love especially when there is so much hate."

Called "Yahaan", the film was shot entirely in downtown Srinagar, with lots of hand-held camera work, a matted, cold, grey feel interspersed with romantic visuals of the lapping water and bobbing boats on the Dal Lake.

"After 1989, my film was a very rare one which shot so extensively in Srinagar. Even 'Mission Kashmir' didn't shot a lot there - it's just too risky.

"I wanted to take that risk," said Sirkar. The film has Jimmy Shergill as Captain Aman and debutante Minesha (a New Delhi girl) as Adaa.

"Jimmy really fits into the role. He is just the modern, suave army officer who can capture hearts and change hate and suspicion to friendship and love even in a hostile environment," said Sirkar who has made over 200 ad films.

"I have been tracking Kashmir for more than 10 years now. I eagerly follow whatever happens there," said Sirkar, whose commercials have been used for brands like Standard Chartered, Ford, Pepsi, Dettol, Pizza Hut, Lux, Airtel, Cadbury's, HP, Canon, Escotel and Maruti.

"I believe everyone is now very weary of the conflict, especially the Kashmiris. They are seeing the kind of development that's happening in the other cities. They too want those opportunities, those jobs, that lifestyle.

"I believe the militants have really lost a mass base. Now the talk is only of hope and the question is when peace will return, not if."

Sirkar runs Red Ice Films, which he started in 1999 and used to also run his theatre group Act One.

"Kashmir is my cause," said Sirkar. "I have fallen in love with the place. It's unbelievable what such a paradise has been turned into and I, through my work, want to speak up, shout out for Kashmir and say that we must save it."


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