Over many cups of tea during an interesting conversation with the man responsible for bringing Bollywood to Kashmir, we learnt more as he continued on his escapades with the stars and star makers. At one point of time, he was responsible for bringing film units to Kashmir. Now, he is being credited for ‘The Return of Bollywood to the Valley”.
Do you remember how it all started, the first or the crucial initiative in wooing Bollywood to Kashmir?
N. Bakshi: From the past, what I can recollect is that I spoke with BR Chopra a long time back. He, in turn, put me in touch with Prakash Mehra. Mr. Mehra, at that time, was planning a film. Then, there was Sunil Dutt, who came all the way to Srinagar for one of the movies he was directing. At that time, I was in Jammu. He drove down from Srinagar in the night and the next day, we spent discussing locales for the movie. Being a Biscoe Boy, I had travelled very extensively across Kashmir; therefore, my inputs were quite valuable and were appreciated. I remember a South Indian film unit getting in touch with me. All this was followed by movies like the Amitabh Bachchan-Shashi Kapoor starer Kabhi Kabhie, Yash Chopra’s Amitabh Bachchan-Vinod Khanna starrer KhoonPasina, Lawaris and many more.
You enjoyed quite a good relationship with Late Yash Chopra and due to this relationship, once again Kashmir saw Bollywood units filming in the Valley.
N. Bakshi: It was some time in 2001-02. I was in Mumbai and while sitting with Yashji, we started talking about his next project for which he had already settled for Switzerland. He was very hesitant to come to Kashmir. It was quite an effort that I had to put in, but what I could do at that time was to persuade him to visit Srinagar in 2004-05. His next visit to the Valley was in 2012, with much persuasion and effort, I was able to ignite the fire in him to look at Kashmir once again. My pitch was simple “If a man like Yash Chopra comes to Kashmir again, it will change the outlook Kashmir in not just in Bollywood, but people across the world. This would, in turn, give a boost to the tourism industry back here”. Also, I knew, once he said yes, the star cast would be top-of-the-line actors. My interaction with him ended with a promise that he would give it a thought.
How did Jab Tak Hai Jaan happen ?
N. Bakshi: One fine day he called me from London and asked me if I could meet him in Mumbai on his return as he wanted to discuss something important. Once we met, he said “Shooting karni hai Kashmir mai (I want to film in Kashmir) and I need your inputs”. And, in the same breath, he told me that he would bring Shahrukh Khan, Katrina and Anushka. This statement actually stunned me for a moment. “Nazir, I want your personal guarantee that nothing untoward would happen,” he said. Getting Shahrukh Khan to Kashmir was a big event, especially with Yash Chopra directing him.
I knew that I would get all possible support from all the people in the State. I flew back to the State and met the Chief Minister and Home Minister and other officials concerned. We got the required support and permissions to film across Kashmir for two months.
And, that was it, the starting of yet another era in the history of Kashmir tourism’s tryst with Bollywood.
Any interesting incident that happened during the filming?
N. Bakshi: Yes, one interesting turn of event did take place. Basically, the script of the film had Gulmarg and Pahalgham only. During one random discussion, I told Yashji, how Dal Lake could be left out. Then it was decided that the part of song “Jiya Re” would be filmed in the Dal Lake.
Let us talk about the 1970s-80s when Kashmir did not offer any infrastructural support to Bollywood.
N. Bakshi: Broadly speaking, during those days, there were all kinds of challenges. A sort of red tapism and the non-availability of infrastructure or equipment which is required by the film industry. It was quite a task for the Film units to transport various equipment’s required for filming in Kashmir.
During that time, Kashmir was becoming a destination for the Bollywood. Were no efforts made by either the State Government or any private entity to fill this gap?
N. Bakshi: There were some discussion with the State Government at that time for creating a Government entity which would buy the required equipment for renting. But as such nothing came out of it. Then I along with Late Vinod Mehra had decided to form an entity, which would invest in the equipment required for filming in the entire State of Jammu & Kashmir. But God had some other plans. The unrest started in the Valley and Vinod who was dear friend left this world. That was in the past.
Now if anyone decides to invest in such a venture, the commercial viability will have to be assessed. Which to my mind at least right now is not make a good commercial sense, unless Government takes an initative.
Making a film in Kashmir in 1970s &80s. Making films now, for sure there must be very noticeable differences.
N. Bakshi: Those were very different times. Earlier, film shooting was more like picnics, as everyone was at ease. It used to be like a big family get-together. Today, it is very different. The techniques and style have changed. Earlier, anybody could do any task. Now, you have very clear demarcations and divisions or units. Now the whole process has become very professional. Nothing is left to chance, but knowing this medium, hiccups occur, but, nevertheless, the whole approach is now very professional and systematic.
You come across as a very calm person. Have you ever lost your cool?
N. Bakshi: This was some time in the late 1970s or early 1980s. We had hired a private garden for a shot which was extended due to weather conditions. I was called by both, the Director and the Producer of the film to the location as the filming was stopped by the owner’s son. I was wondering what the issue was, especially as we had paid in advance for the extra days also. At the location, I met the son of the owner of that place along with a few of his friends. I tried to explain the situation to him. But they refused to budge. That was the time, I lost my cool and called my staff and we forced them into a barn and locked them there. The filming started and once we were done with the work, I called them and asked them what their problem was. I burst out laughing once they told me that they wanted to meet the heroine of the film, and she had refused. I made sure that they met her and had a cup of tea with her. While having their tea, they also apologized to the concerned persons for their behaviour.
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