M A I N   N E W S

On September 27, Hamburg will roll out red carpet for these two Kashmiris
Azhar Qadri
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, September 22
Come September 27, and it will be a dream walk for two men from Kashmir in Germany.

Mohammad Afzal Sofi - a journalist and a part-time stage actor, and Gulzar Ahmad Bhat, who rows a boat in Dal lake, are scheduled to fly to the European nation where they will walk the red carpet and rub shoulders with the celebrities at the 20th Hamburg International Film Festival.

Sofi and Bhat have lived their entire lives in Kashmir’s entertainment-sans landscape where no cinemas have operated in the last 20 years due to militancy. When, in 1999, the Regal cinema was reopened after remaining shut for a decade, it was attacked on its very first day forcing its closure. It is now a go-down.

Sofi and Bhat, whose lives have been deeply shaped by the years of armed conflict in Kashmir, feature in ‘Valley of Saints’ - a romantic drama directed by an American-Kashmiri Musa Sayeed. The film was shot in Kashmir during the deadly street protests of 2010 and was released on January 23 this year.

Bhat’s character ‘Gulzar’ plays the main lead in the film while Sofi plays the character of ‘Afzal’, who is Gulzar’s best friend.

At the heart of the plot is the idyllic Dal lake where Gulzar, a young boatman, lives a simple life. To escape poverty and war, he decides to go to Delhi with his friend Afzal. The plan is suddenly thwarted when a Kashmir-wide curfew is enforced. Gulzar’s life is turned upside down when he meets a pretty scientist Asifa and falls in love.

The Hamburg festival opens with this film on September 27. Hamburg’s mayor Olaf Scholz will be among the dignitaries, says the festival website. Sofi — who comes from the northern Kashmir town of Sopore, a bastion of militants over the last two decades — says it is a proud moment to be going to such a prestigious event.

“I am perhaps the first Kashmiri to be flying to such an event. It’s a proud moment. I am excited about walking the red carpet,” says 30-year-old Sofi, who sports of brownish beard. Sofi has been a witness to violence since he was young. In 1993, his hometown was burnt and his father was shot dead along with dozen others while travelling in a bus to Bandipora town.

It was devastating blow, recalls Sofi. “There was this conflict raging and I had to live with the challenges of being an orphan. It was difficult and hard,” he told The Tribune.

Bhat, who plays the main lead in the film, was orphaned in 1992 when his father died of heart attack forcing him to leave school and work as a boatman ferrying handful of tourists who would then take the risk of visiting Kashmir.

“Musa Sayeed (director of the film) had come to Dal lake and he took my boat for a ride. He then asked me if I wanted to act in his film. I agreed,” says Bhat (28). “It is unbelievable. A ‘shikarawala’ will be going to Germany as an actor,” says Bhat, for whom Hamburg will be his second trip outside Kashmir. Earlier this month, he went to New Delhi to get his visa to Germany.





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |