You’ve got to be really privileged to set your eyes on paradise. As the plane descended into Srinagar airport, the snow capped peaks captured my eyes. It is as if God is having an intimate conversation with you showing off His finest Creation. I forgot all my worries and problems and decided to lose myself in the pristine spell of the finest Beauty. The weather was pleasant and the T shirt sufficed perfectly. The strong presence of Indian Army from Airport onwards was a reminder that all is not well with Kashmir. Terrorism has reduced considerably but stray incidents continue to happen. Even the traffic is manned by gun-wielding-soldiers. Floods have pushed behind the city and the infrastructure has been badly affected. Under these trying circumstances, producer Vashu Bhagnani undertook an exemplary initiative to start the promotions of his film Welcome 2 Karachi from Kashmir to help promote tourism in Jammu and Kashmir. Let’s bring you my diaries of the three days spent in Paradise meeting local people, doing fun interviews with lead artistes Jackky Bhagnani and Lauren Gotleib at prominent places in Srinagar and enjoying the famed Kashmiri cuisine specially the Khahva.
Day 1, May 8, 2015
We stayed at the palatial Hari Nivas Palace guest house surrounded by huge mountains richly sprayed with big Deodar trees. There were massive gardens in the front with seasonal flowers dotting the surroundings in finely manicured flower beds. I later came to know that this wonderful property was called Papa 2 when the militancy was at its peak in 1990s. It served as an interrogation-centre-cum-jail where third degree treatment was meted out to militants with several of them passing away.
In the evening we headed for Dal Lake in an open bus. It was fun doing an interview with Jackky and Lauren in the moving vehicle. This was the first time that Jackky and Lauren were visiting Kashmir and both were tremendously excited. Jackky is awestruck with Lauren’s superlative dance steps in Shakira from Welcome 2 Karachi. He showed a few moves on the moving bus itself, much to the excitement of people flocking the roads. The Shikara ride in the delightfully peaceful Dal Lake was an experience to be savoured for the lifetime. We encountered an interesting ‘Online Shopping’ experience as traders hugged our Shikara with their own and charmed their way into persuading us to buy their wares like Kashmiri Saffron, Wood articles, pashmina shawls etc.
Day 2, May 9, 2015
I did a walk the talk interview in the woods with Jackky Bhagnani, then we walked along the Dal Lake and ended up doing a fun ‘Talking Films Rapid Fire’ in a Shikara as we lazed around in the Dal Lake. Jackky owes a lot of impromptu improvisations in the dialogues in Welcome to Karachi to his costar Arshad Warsi. He also clarified that all is well between him, Arshad and director Ashish R Mohan. “Arshad is busy with four films and will join promotions closer to the release and Ashish is in Karachi shooting for some authentic footage of the city where the film is based in,” Jackky said.
At a press conference in the Hari Nivas Palace guest house, Kashmiri journalists urged the Commissioner of Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Mr Shailendra Kumar to open the already existing cinema halls in Kashmir so that people can watch Hindi films. Mr. Kumar assured the media that necessary steps will be taken. Vashu Bhagnani assured the local media that he will speak to big multiplex players in Mumbai and urge them to start cinema halls in Kashmir soon.
The Srinagar market place came alive in the afternoon as Army officers escorted Lauren and Jackky. Lauren was especially thrilled with the experience of being shown around the place by smart soldiers. I did a walk the talk interview with the duo as we navigated through the afternoon crowd. So how well do Jackky and Lauren know each other? A fun video is coming your
Nishat Bagh is one of the famous Mughal Gardens overlooking Dal Lake. A huge flight of stairs, fountains, wonderful flower beds and lofty mountains served as the picture-perfect-backdrop. Lauren and Jackky were mobbed by Selfie-seeking-fans. They even donned local Kashmiri dresses and clicked pictures. Nageen Club hosted the dinner with a special musical night. The
cold wind around the Nageen Lake and the sight of a half lit city is unforgettable. Vashu Bhagnani, his amiable wife Pooja, Jackky and Lauren accompanied the entire media contingent in the Bus instead of the plush BMW that was made available to them.
Day 3, May 10, 2015
Jackky and Lauren launched ‘Run For Laughter’ at the historic ‘Chashme Shahi’. Energetic happy kids cheered as the balloons of freedom were left in the sky. “We want to connect with the youth and hence we are here,” Jackky said. They also distributed note books amongst children. The best gift that one can give to these children besieged with an uncertain future is
Education. Lauren and Jackky danced to local Kashmiri live music. Lauren ended up twisting her foot and was later seen hobbling in the hotel and at the airport. “My legs are my bread and butter,” she was overheard telling a journalist.
Three days whizzed past in a jiffy but they are worth a lifetime. Nature makes you at peace with yourself. Wonder when will peace return to Kashmir?