Juhi, Manisha bond in Kashmir
Despite both of them being in the industry for 20 years, Onir’s I Am is Juhi Chawla and Manisha Koirala’s first film together. Describing the experience as “pleasantly refreshing”, Chawla says, “Manisha is a very open-hearted person. In the past, we have never gone beyond exchanging pleasantries. We have never been on the same set at the same time. So to come together as friends on screen after all these years was wonderful.”
Chawla claims to love all of Koirala’s films from Saudagar (1991), Khamoshi The Musical (1996) to Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995). During the shoot, she adds that they spent time walking around Srinagar and having conversations over tea. She says, “We mostly spoke about where our lives are now and what we plan to do in the future. Soon after the film, Manisha got married and I am very happy for her.” In Onir’s film, which consists of four short stories - Omar, Afia, Abhimanyu, and Megha, Chawla features in two. She says, “Each film is based on real-life stories with fear as the common theme.”On her character in Afia, Chawla says, "I play an affluent career woman who resists the idea of going back to Kashmir (her hometown) even for two days. She has not made peace with her past and has hurt and misgiving in her heart about Kashmir and its people. She is unable to forgive them for what happened to her family."
She adds, “As a child, she had to flee with her parents, live in refugee camps and then at relatives’ houses. Their dignity was lost and her uncle was burnt alive by people her family once considered friends,” informs Chawla.
For someone who hadn’t travelled to Kashmir before, Chawla says, “When I went for the shoot, my immediate experience of Srinagar was that people are trying to lead normal lives despite the presence of armed forces all around the city. People want to be free, they want tourism back and yearn for peace.”