BHOPAL: Aadil Khan, who hails from Bhopal, has been cast as the lead character –a Kashmiri Pandit - in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s just-released film Shikara. In a telephonic interview with Free Press, Aadil talks about the film’s key message, how he happened to get the role and how he prepared himself for it.

How challenging was it for you – a Bhopali Muslim – to play the role of a Kashmiri Pandit?

I lived in Kashmir for about four months – not as a tourist but as a local. I observed people, I talked with them. I also visited a refugee camp of Kashmiri Pandits at Jammu to meet them. To help me immerse in my character, Vidhu sir addressed me as ‘Shiv’ for about two years. The story is set in the 1990s, when there was no social media. So, I, too, kept away from social media for around three years.

You were an RJ in Bhopal? How did you land this film?

I hail from Bhopal. I studied in Campion School and BSSS. After working as RJ in Bhopal, I shifted to Mumbai. Vidhu sir had a certain image of the lead character of the film – Shiv Kumar Dhar – who is a Shayar. He wanted the person to have a certain kind of voice. I fitted the bill. Thus, it was my voice that got me the role. Auditions followed for around four months before I was finally selected. Then my training in acting began.

What is the basic theme of Shikara? What does it seek to convey?

Its basic message is that love and togetherness can help you survive and fight even if there is hatred all around you. It is a love story of Shiv and Shanti, both Kashmiri Pandits, who have to leave their motherland. It is about their sufferings and about how their love helps them deal with the ordeal. It is a beautiful story.

What do you find common between Hinduism and Islam?

Both are great religions. Both lay great stress on humanity

What was your experience of working with Vidhu Vinod Chopra?

He is a genius, very honest about his work and extremely creative. He is a great professional and a great human being. I have learned a lot from him. He has made me not only a good actor but also a good human being.

Why did you change your name from Nasar Ullah Khan to Aadil?

My mother used to call me Aadil. I was not very good at studies but my mother used to tell everyone that one day, Aadil will smile from huge hoardings. My mother passed away when the film was in the making. So, Vidu sir and I decided to use the name she addressed me with.

What’s next?

Presently, I am so busy that I don’t have the time to think of the future. It is now more than three years since I quit radio. Some projects are in the pipeline. Insha Allah, they would fructify.

There is some controversy about the film, that it does not portray the real story…

Please see the film. You will have no complaints. The film is about the bravery and the fortitude of the Pandits, about how they dealt with the tragedy.

It is now three days since your film’s release? How is the audience response?

It is great. I have been to Kolkata and Delhi since the release of the film. Everywhere the response is very good. I could not have been happier.

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