Seventeen-year-old Asif Ahmad could not hide his surprise and excitement when he saw Bollywood actors Juhi Chawla and Manisha Koirala on Srinagar roads.
He had seen the two before on television. But this time, he was watching them from a distance of 25 feet, shooting for a short film, Megha.
The 20-minute film, directed by Onir Kapoor, will depict life at the time of Kashmir conflict. Teenagers like Asif, who were born after the outbreak of militancy in the Valley in 1989, are not used to watching Bollywood actors shooting in Kashmir.
But as violence is receding in Kashmir, Bollywood is going back to its once favourite shooting spot.
“It is a story of two friends. A Kashmiri Hindu meets her Kashmiri Muslim friend after 20 years of exodus. It depicts the pain and agony of their separation,” producer of the film Sanjay Suri said.
About 250,000 Hindus fled Kashmir in the early 1990s after some targeted killings by suspected militants. According to official figures, at least 209 Hindus have been killed since 1989.
Suri, who himself is a Kashmiri and has also acted in films, feels things have changed. He said, “I think my crew shooting here is itself a message that things are improving in Jammu & Kashmir,” Suri said.
In October last year, the shooting of Rahul Dholakia’s film, Lamha, was stopped, as some people raised objections to some scenes in the film.