Many who see this film wonder how we made it. The answer is simple: Teamwork, trust and a little bit of ambition.
While studying engineering in Delhi, every semester that I'd come back home I would make short films with my two cousins, goofy little parodies mostly. Then while my fourth semester was ending, I felt like this time when I go back home I want to make a longer film but I didn't know how I'd get actors. So, I spoke to my friends and whoever I thought could look good in the frame about this idea. Surprisingly they were very enthused to be in a film with no budget and that boosted my confidence. So I wrote the major characters and the story around all these people I had chosen. I knew how good Ahmar was, so I made the story revolve around him. He and I had long discussions about his character and I knew how passionate he was to create something that had rarely been attempted in Kashmir.
Fast forward to December 2012, and we were off shooting in downtown Srinagar. We'd all meet at 10 am and head for the shoot in my dad's Maruti 800 (which is Asif's car in the film). There was no crew, it was me on the camera, and just the actors. I had a small collar mic I had thought we would record the location sound on, but in the first few days I realised it was picking up too much noise and decided to dub the dialogues later.
We had minor characters that hadn't been casted so I asked my friends to look for friends, cousins, neighbours etc whoever they thought would fit these roles and we even casted a few kids who were walking past us on the road while we were shooting. The highlight being Atthar, the boy who plays German. We were shooting a scene in Safakadal and he and his friend were curiously looking into our set. I saw him and I immediately went up and offered him the role. He joined us the next day.
We shot till the first week of January 2013, and I think we only took one or two days off. I can still remember the rush I was in all the time and coming back home I would have tea and immediately start looking at the footage from the day. We had our bunch of problems while shooting like some guys who agreed to be in the fllm didn't show up on the shooting day and we had no time to waste, so we picked up whoever we could. I remember this one day when we were shooting outside Joggers Park, Rajbagh. Ahmar was to drive into the scene and stop next to Mujtaba (Iqbal). So as I began filming, the car wouldn't start, it had run out of fuel. Then Ahmar had to take an auto to get the fuel and in an hour we resumed filming. On any shoot day, you have no idea what problem may arise and you always have to be ready with your mindset. This is a nice lesson I learnt on this shoot.
Moving on, someone at Kashmir Monitor newspaper heard about our film when we were fifteen days into filming. They called me in and offered to produce the film. It was 15000 rupees and at that point I thought we could use it for fuel and such things so I took the deal. After this we didn't have to worry about the fuel and we were able to arrange food for cast/crew during the last couple of days. When your brain is going at full throttle, you really burn a lot of calories and you never know if you're hungry or not. But the sheer ecstasy that is creating something is unlike anything that can be put in words.
I had thought the film would be ready in three months and little did I know that doing editing, sound design, dialogue recording, foley etc all by myself would take a toll on me. So everyday after college I would edit and edit. I came home in semester holidays and I was editing. And I had to find the people who had played the characters for the dubbing. I had a guy who had agreed to create the background score for the film but he lost interest and bailed. Then there was another friend who said he'll do it but he had issues as well and left the production. Then finally Ahmar found Kevin's music online and said we could use it on a creative commons license. And voila! I loved his music as it perfectly matched the tone I wanted for the film.
By August 2014, the final film was ready. I submitted the film to my producer who said we would screen the film in Kashmir. This was September 3, 2014. Two days later floods came and destroyed not only our valley but my hopes of people seeing this film as well. Over the next year the Valley was still recuperating from the humongous losses caused by the flood and I thought it insensitive to release my film.
I uploaded Gandukh to YouTube at the end of 2015 but didn't post it publicly until last month. And here I am, finally sharing my baby with the world. My close friends know how much time and effort went into making this thing.
It's not perfect but I'm really proud. It is a step forward for Kashmiri cinema. We have many, many stories to tell and we will. Ourselves.
Lastly, I want to thank these people who spent their time and energy on my dream knowing they would not gain anything:
Ahmar Sadiq Baqal, Mujtaba Hussayn, Mohsin Showkat, Danish Javid, Faizan Mir, Sheikh Mehran Aslam, Aadil Farooq, Shahood Ahmad Qadri, Haseeb Quadri and many others.
We've had a pretty cold winter in Kashmir this year. Luckily temperatures started getting better as March arrived and Srinagar's most popular almond orchard, Badamwari, came into its much awaited spring glory. This year I visited the park with my friend, Nasir, who is a freelance model as well as an engineering student. I've been obsessed with portraits of late and this seemed like a perfect setting to try some new stuff.
I chose a bright, saturated theme for the shoot with darker midtones since I'm a big fan of high contrasts.
We experimented with expressions and that's one thing Nasir is good at, he is a Kaaczur with effortless swag.
Glorious almond tree.
I really loved this part of the park, it felt very dreamlike.
By this time you might think it is a campaign for the Sweater he's wearing. I do too, not your fault.
All in all, this was a good day to explore some new territory within the world of portraits as well as capture Badamwari in a new way. I'll definitely be back here next year.
What did you think about the shoot? Drop a comment below!
For photoshoots/portfolios contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Although Kashmir is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, there are still a ton of people who stay away from it because of their fears of the ongoing conflict and indulging with the muslim communities. Last November in Delhi, I became friends with Mafaldina from Italy, who wanted to come to Kashmir but had been advised to stay away. We became really good friends and she accepted my invitation to come to Kashmir and stay with my family. In this film I got a chance to look at Srinagar through her eyes and capture it's misunderstood dimensions.
More about images than words.