A premiere in Srinagar was cancelled and there have been no theatrical screenings in Kashmir, yet Rahul Dholakia has been getting E-mails from the Valley applauding his recently released film, Lamhaa, for its honest and unbiased approach to the burning problem.
“I’ve been invited to talk to young people there,” says the National Award-winning director who is planning a series of filmmaking workshops, probably after Ramzan.
Quiz him on the NGO for orphans for which he is teaming up his Lamhaa co-stars, Sanjay Dutt and Bipasha Basu, and he says he is waiting for Dutt’s return to the country.
“It’s not going to happen tomorrow, it requires a lot of paperwork but the workshops can take off immediately,” Dholakia reasons, adding that we need to get serious about Kashmir that has been simmering for the last 20 years. “It’s spawned a whole generation of youngsters who have started protest groups on Facebook, shout anti-India slogans on the street and are not afraid to die for a cause. We’ve already lost the North Eastern states — the Seven Sisters—and if we continue to ignore it, we’ll lose Kashmir too.”
Reacting to the ban in UAE he says that Sharmila Tagore, the chairperson of the Censor Board, pointed out to him that the real issue wasn’t human rights but women’s rights.
“They were afraid that if women in these countries saw my burqa-clad heroine rebel against a social structure dominated by a male chauvinistic ideology, they might be encouraged to do the same,” he reiterates, adding that he has been getting E-mails from Pakistan too urging him to screen the film at festivals there.
However, successive bans against Parzania and Lamhaa, and their non-performance at the box-office, has opened Dholakia’s eyes to the fact that he needs to go commercial and make money for his producers.
That’s the reason he’s incorporating songs in his next film, Society, gearing up for a year-end release. He’s also directing a film for Ravi Chopra that revolves around three strong characters — two men and a woman — and touches on legal issues. But Dholakia promises a more mainstream film again.
Does this mean that he’s sold out? “No, every three years, I plan to make an off-beat film under my own banner. There’s one that will explore the North East. It will have to be in the local language or English because they don’t speak Hindi there,” he says.
Dholakia’s dream project is a woman-centric epic, inspired by a true story that he hopes to shoot on location in Afghanistan.
“It demands months of research, a A-list cast and a lavish budget,” he sighs. “I’m not sure if there are many who would want to put money into a thought-provoking film. I’d rather wait than compromise.”