Filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra on Sunday held a special screening of his upcoming movie 'Shikara: The Untold Story Of Kashmiri Pandits' for Kashmiri Pandits in New Delhi -- in order to mark 30 years of their exodus from the valley. It was January 19, 1990 that hordes of Kashmiri Pandits left the valley in search of a better life in what they called 'India'. Thirty years later, they continue to live in refugee camps, without any hint of personal or financial security.
The movie addresses this issue of ethnic cleansing and riots that took place in 1989 in Kashmir -- chronicling the exodus through the story of Shiv Kumar Dhar (essayed by debutant Aadil Khan) and Shanti Dhar (played by another debutante Sadia).
Chopra, at the event, said his mother was the reason he decided to make 'Shikara: The Untold Story Of Kashmiri Pandits'. And rightly so, he presented a short docu-feature on his mother's, Shanti, visit to Kashmir -- 'Shikara: Tribute To My Mother' -- when he began filming 'Mission Kashmir' -- a movie based on the conflict in the valley, starring Hrithik Roshan and Sanjay Dutt in the lead -- in the year 2000.
"It took me 11 years to make the film. Many people ask me 'why this film' and 'why I did not make another part of 'Munna Bhai M.B.B.S' or '3 Idiots'. It's not just a film for me... I made this for my mother (late Shanti Devi)," he said.
The documentary sees Shanti Devi sharing her dilemma of having to leave her own home, recounting the day when she received a call from her friend saying that the militants were looting and burning Hindus' houses while she was in Mumbai for the premiere of one of Chopra's films.
Chopra also rued the fact that no substantial help has been provided to Kashmiri Pandits for all these years. He said, "There is a dialogue in our film that says, 'Abb Parliament mein shor machega.' Has it happened? Several governments have come and gone. People sitting here from Delhi may not realise what it feels like to leave your house overnight."
"Abb toh shor machaado, [let's raise our voice at least now]" he said, adding, "Kashmiri Pandits need an apology for the indifference they have faced over the years."
Chopra also asked the media to help in seeking justice for the Kashmiri Pandits.
"I want everyone who knowingly or unknowingly ignored the plight of the Kashmiris, please use the internet to say 'Sorry Kashmiri Pandits'. Sorry, that we did not do anything for you. Sorry, to all of you who are still living in refugee camps. All the kids who are here (pointing to members of the film) have no idea what Kashmir is like. So, let them say sorry.
"I am not on the social media. But the media is here, and I am sure they can help me," Chopra said.
Abhijat Joshi, who was also in attendance at the special event, said Chopra was his mentor. He said, "People often ask me why I continue to work with this mad man. But let me tell you despite of suffering so much, I have never seen him harbouring hatred for any community. The only thing he hates is hate. He is my mentor, and whatever I have learnt about filmmaking is because of him."
Chopra was justifiably in support of the Muslims throughout the do. He said, "A lot of Muslims in Kashmir knew fully well that this film is about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. They still stood with us and helped us to make this film. They're not here with us, but I want to thank them for their support."
Vidhu Vinod Chopra has directed, edited and produced 'Shikara' in association with Fox Star Studios. It is slated to be released on February 7.