‘I saw rows of unlived, half burnt houses…’
Juhi Chawla recalls ghost colony in Srinagar, children who can’t visit friends while shooting for I Am.bollywood Updated: Mar 25, 2011 18:53 IST
Actor Juhi Chawla will be back in theatres next month in Onir’s I Am Megha that opens on April 22. The actor has done a series of cameos previously in films like Swami (2007), Krazzy 4 (2008), Bhootnath (2008), Kismet Konnection (2008), Luck By Chance (2009) and Salaam-e-Ishq (2007). She admits she’s been doing more endorsements than movies lately, but says she’s open to a good role.
“I’m an actor, I can’t do anything else, but now, I can’t do anything half-heartedly. If I go on the sets, it has to be worth the time and effort,” says Juhi who is doing another special appearance in the 3D animation-cum-live action Main Krishna Hoon. “My kids loved My Friend Ganesha (2007). I took on this film for Jahnvi and Arjun.” Juhi has a more substantial role in Onir’s film with which she’s flown to showcase at the ongoing India Film Festival in Melbourne. “The last time I was in Australia was almost 10 years ago for a show with Shah Rukh (Khan) and Akshay (Kumar). I’m really excited to be back because for the first time I will be attending a festival for a week. I can catch world cinema in all its different shades while promoting I Am Megha,” she exults.
Megha is a Kashmir Pandit who is forced to flee her home and returns to the Valley after almost two decades, angry and embittered, only to find that her Muslim friend is no better off. Juhi who was in Kashmir in November 2009, remembers the overwhelming presence of the army and police and sighs over the fact that the once beautiful Shalimar Gardens are so neglected today for lack of funds.
One vivid memory is of a colony of houses that once belonged to the Kashmiri pandits that were torched and abandoned in the mid-’80s. “It was surreal, stepping out of the busy market road into this ghost colony, with rows of half burnt, unlived houses that have had no visitors apart from the CRPF and us in 20 years,” she reminisces. “It made the trauma of Megha and others like her so real.” The team also filmed in a large bungalow belonging to a Muslim family. An evening spent with the women in an inside room was an eye-opener.
She learnt that none of the children, not even the little boys, were allowed out once they returned from school. They couldn't visit friends, neighbours or relatives because their parents were afraid they’d be lead astray.
Their world was restricted to their home and school. Says Juhi, “Being a mother of two young children, it made me realise how blessed we were to have the freedom of choice and movement that we take so much for granted.”