'Lamhaa' unit to leave Kashmir as mob stalls Bipasha's shoot

By Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, Nov 8 (IANS) Bollywood producer Bunty Walia, who had hoped to shoot his film "Lamhaa" in the Kashmir valley, has decided to pull out his crew from the region after a mob disrupted the shooting of a scene involving Bipasha Basu.

On Wednesday, a mob surrounded the unit filming a scene with Bipasha, who plays the role of a Kashmiri girl. They wanted the film's shooting to be stopped.

"It wasn't a pleasant experience for Bipasha to suddenly see a mob of locals descending on the unit," Walia told IANS on phone from Srinagar.

"We were shooting on the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) compound, which was supposed to pass off as a street in Kashmir because there are a lot of Kashmiri Pundit houses in the compound.

"One sequence had a band of Kashmiri women led by Bipasha moving towards one of the houses in a van. When the local Kashmiri men saw so many women in burqas, they wanted to know what was happening. They got increasingly agitated," he said.

"We realised that when it comes to mobs nothing works...not the police, not the CRPF. We decided we had no choice but to quickly pack up for the day for the sake of the unit's security," Walia added.

Last week, Kashmiri fruit traders had intervened to stop the shooting of the film at the fruit market as they feared the movie might portray them in a bad light.

On Monday, students of a college in south Kashmir's Anantnag district took exception to some of the portions being shot inside the campus premises and the principal then asked the film crew to withdraw.

"I realised quite early in our schedule that shooting the entire film in Kashmir would be impossible. The minute the locals saw a 150-strong unit in Srinagar they got suspicious and excited. There have been recent film units in Kashmir but none in Srinagar before 'Lamhaa'.

"They are apprehensive about the guns. But the gun culture has been a part of Kashmir for years. I was not showing anything unreal. This is the real Kashmir. But unfortunately their reality in a film is not acceptable to the locals," Walia said.

After Wednesday's disruption, director Rahul Dholakia called a press conference in Srinagar to explain that "Lamhaa" wasn't projecting the Kashmir valley incorrectly.

"Rahul was very upset about the disruption. He asked the locals not to become a mob," Walia said.

"Why did the Jammu and Kashmir government promise us all cooperation and protection? I'm anxious and irritated. I'm losing a lot of money because of the disruptions. I can't shoot beyond Nov 21. I don't have my stars' dates beyond that. The light starts fading at 4.30 p.m. I'm working against all odds. We feel pushed against the wall," he added.

Now almost 80 percent of "Lamhaa" will be shot in Film City in Mumbai.

"We've rescheduled. We'll shoot vital scenes with our stars as fast as possible and quickly move out of Kashmir. My entire film was to be shot in Kashmir for 60 days. Now we can only shoot in Kashmir for 20 days. The rest of the film will be shot on a set erected at Film City (Mumbai)," Walia said.

The set for "Lamhaa" will be constructed by Wasiq Khan.

"He's done other Kashmiri films like 'Tahaan' and 'Yahaan'. We're shopping for Kashmiri artefacts and furniture right now. We hope to create an authentic Kashmir in Mumbai," Walia said.

"The administration in Kashmir was cooperative. The local people were hostile. They misinterpret anything we shoot. I'm not going to explain every shot and action to the mobs. Sadly I've to announce that the dream of Kashmir being a paradise for film units remains just a dream."

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