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Updated: July 19, 2010 18:02 IST

Tales from the valley

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Director Rahul Dholakia on what went into the making of “Lamhaa”, an ode to present-day Kashmir

Five years after “Parzania”, director Rahul Dholakia, who won the National Award in 2006 for the film, is back with another hard-hitting creation. After bringing the post-Godhra riots to the fore in his previous film, Rahul has trained his eyes on the Kashmir valley this time around with “Lamhaa” that released last week. The film stars Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu, Anupam Kher and Kunal Kapoor.

Just as “Parzania” was born out of his love for his homeland Gujarat, an interesting story lies behind “Lamhaa” too. “During a screening of ‘Parzania', I met some Kashmiri students who told me that Kashmir is a ‘beautiful prison'! I wanted to understand what they felt, and visited the valley and spent over two years researching — that's how ‘Lamhaa' was born”, says Rahul.

Mirroring reality

While there have been other films such as “Roja”, “Mission Kashmir” and “Fanaa” set in the valley, Rahul says his film looks at Kashmir and its problems in a never-before manner. “My film is set in today's Kashmir. Also, it explores Kashmir from the perspective of the public and their day-to-day life. For instance, we have addressed the issue of half-widows, as well as the problems a jawaan faces in his daily life. All this while trying to keep the film exciting and interesting for an audience not interested in knowing about other peoples' problems,” says Rahul.

“Lamhaa” deals with corruption in Kashmir that benefits politicians and the military alike. The film tells the story of Intelligence officer Vikram (Dutt) who finds out about a corruption plot and is sent to investigate it. Around the same time, separatist leader Haji (Kher) survives a bomb attack and Vikram thinks the two events might be related. He gets help from Haji's co-worker Aziza (Basu) and together the two embark upon a journey to find the truth.

The idea, Rahul says, was not to be preachy or offer solutions, but bring the reality of the issue closer home. “‘Lamhaa' doesn't offer solutions — how can a film or film-maker offer a solution to a problem that is 60 years old? But, what it does is provide you a closer look at reality, and allow you to make your call on the issue,” he explains.

Having shot in some of the most trying conditions in Kashmir (a film is being shot there after years), Rahul certainly understands the reality there. “We were in Kashmir right after the Jammu blockade and the Amarnath land controversy. Emotions ran high, and a lot had to be done to gain people's trust. I was even taken hostage by 10,000 people and almost got shot on a couple of occasions! But, once the people realised what we were doing, they took us into their homes and welcomed us. I wonder if I'll receive that kind of hospitality anywhere else in the world,” he reminisces.

For Rahul, this was a very different experience from “Parzania” as he was dealing with mainstream actors and a budget touted to be around Rs. 30 crore. “I think the actors came first, and with them, the budget. Fortunately, my actors and producers never once told me to change the script to suit their needs. They only said: ‘Let's have some songs, and please don't make a documentary',” he says, candidly.

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