With violence down in the Kashmir Valley and Bollywood filmmakers showing keen interest, Kashmiri artistes are looking for new vistas in the glamour world. In the latest instance, three young actors from the state are making their debut on the big-screen in Abhishek Kapoor’s much-awaited movie Fitoor starring Aditya Roy Kapoor, Katrina Kaif and Tabu. The movie releases on Friday.
A significant portion of the film, based on Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations, has been shot in Kashmir and people here are eagerly awaiting its release to see local stars - Rayes Mohiuddin (30), Aijaz Rah (35) and Sheikh Abrar (12) - in action.
Apart from the lead actors, the centre of attraction would be Rayes from South Kashmir’s Pulwama district. He plays Junaid, Aditya Roy Kapoor’s brother, in the film. “Journey to Bollywood was very challenging. It was my dedication, passion and love for theatre that made it possible for me to chase my dream,” said Rayes. “Several people, though, tried stopping me, but I never quit and kept working harder with each passing day,” he said.
Just 10 months ago, 15-year-old Zaira Wasim from Srinagar made headlines after bagging a role in Aamir Khan’s Dangal, currently being shot. She appears as the young Commonwealth gold-medal winning wrestler Geeta Phogat in the film. Zaira had received an audition call in April last year after being spotted in an advertisement of a mobile phone by the film crew.
Zahoor Qadir, project executive at KJ productions, a prominent production house in Kashmir, said Kashmiris had been working in Bollywood movies for long but remained unnoticed due to their confined roles. He said now Bollywood was embracing the enthusiastic artistes from the valley like never before.
“As many as 128 local artistes have appeared in Bollywood movies so far. And since shooting in Kashmir has resumed, more and more artistes are showing interest in this field,” he said.
Watch Fitoor’s trailer here:
“We regularly receive calls from directors who look for artistes in their movies to be shot in Kashmir as well as outside. We conduct the first auditions in order to shortlist them. Later, film crew makes the final choice,” he added.
Rayes, a master’s in computer applications, said his entry into the film industry was an outcome of his stand-up comedy performance at University of Kashmir in 2011.
Once the show was over, videos shot inside the premises of convocation complex became viral on the social media. And those videos made it to the Fitoor’s casting director Mukesh Chhabra.
“It was the biggest achievement for me when I got a call saying auditions for Fitoor were on and Mukesh Chhabra wanted to meet me as he had seen some of my videos,” Rayes recalled. Three days after the audition, Rayes received a call from New Delhi, confirming a role in Fitoor.
The other local artistes who were featured by filmmakers included Bawani Bashir, Bashir Lone, Muzamil Bawani and Mir Sarwar, performing in movies such as Haider, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Phantom.
Kashmir-born Mumbai-based Bollywood singer, Saiam Bhat, said he was seeing many new faces from the valley and was happy the way Bollywood was embracing them. “Kashmiri people are talented in every field. They need to put their heart and soul into what they do. I would love to work with them in future,” he said.
Saiam was given a break in Bollywood by music composer Bappi Lahiri in 2009 in the movie Jai-Veeru.
Earlier in 2007, another Kashmiri, Muzammil Ibrahim played the lead role of a Muslim police officer in Dhokha directed by Pooja Bhatt.