In his career spanning nearly 35 years, Vidhu Vinod Chopra may have directed and produced several films but Shikara is perhaps his most challenging and personal movie, said his frequent collaborator Abhijat Joshi, who has co-written the screenplay of the upcoming period drama.
Joshi, who previously worked with Chopra in successful films such as Lage Raho Munna Bhai, 3 Idiots, PK and Sanju, said that Shikara is an attempt to tell the story of the Kashmiri Pandit exodus without being biased towards any other community or religion.
"Vidhu Vinod Chopra has made several films but I believe that he was born to make this film. Richard Attenborough was 34 years old when he dreamt of making Gandhi. It took him 18 years to make that movie. In Hollywood, everybody knows that he had to direct some five other films and also act in a couple of films to make Gandhi happen. I believe that whatever Vidhu Vinod Chopra has made in the past is a preparation for this film. This is undoubtedly his most personal film," Joshi said.
He continued, "I met him for the first time in 1994, and from that point on, I have seen him mention that he wanted to honour the pain that Kashmiri Pandits have felt. And, we felt that we were not really qualified to tell the story until Rahul Pandita's book, Our Moon has Blood Clots, came out. When I read that book, I felt that I could now dare to contribute to this movie."
Our Moon has Blood Clots: The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits is a 2013 detailed memoir by Indian author Rahul Pandita about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the late 1989 and early 1990.
Joshi said it was Chopra's years of sheer dedication that made Shikara see the light of day.
"This film is the tribute to the Valley that he (Chopra) lost. When I saw him work on this film at his age, it took him longer than it took Attenborough to make Gandhi. I believe it has taken him 30 years to make this film. When he started making this film he defied age. It is certainly not easy to work with 4,000 actors in unbelievable circumstances-- shooting night long under Kashmir's intense cold; in places where no film has ever been shot, facing threats and still continuing because he wanted to tell this story.
"It is a very big thing for me to see how, in the last 25 years from the time he started thinking of telling the story of Kashmiri Pandits and their mass exodus, he has never uttered a single bad word about any other community or religion. He has made this film with total integrity and without bitterness. And, I think that is his greatest quality," Joshi adds.
He further heaped praise on Shikara's lead pair Aadil Khan and Sadia by calling them "undiscovered diamonds."
"When European movie Bicycle Thieves turned a success, Hollywood folks had been busy acquiring rights to its remake. But its director Vittorio De Sica refused because Hollywood's condition was that famous star Cary Grant would act in the film. And, De Sica believed that it would be impossible for a big star to capture the realism and grit that he was looking for. Similarly, Vinod has worked with two young actors who have never acted before. But they are undiscovered diamonds and he has taken those diamonds and he has polished them for two years. I've seen him rehearse with these actors for eight hours. For two full years, these guys were on call and he was making them act and then making them forget to act so that they live those roles," he said.
Shikara is scheduled to hit the theatres on February 7.