Another Majnoon

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In the just-released Bollywood flick, Laila Majnu, the cast includes a young Kashmiri artist Abrar Qazi, reports Umar Mukhtar

As the Bollywood becomes a new career option for the Kashmiri youth, new faces make to the big screen. In the just-released Sajid Ali production, Laila Majnu, there is a Kashmiri actor, Abrar Qazi.

Qazi, 25, is a resident of Bemina, Srinagar, who did his schooling from Tyndale Biscoe School.

Since his childhood, Qazi was interested in visual arts. He used to paint and sketch a lot while growing watching Bollywood. “I remember the first time I acted on stage and played the role of a tree in a school play and I really loved to do it,” Qazi said. Unlike his peers whose ambition was to become doctors and engineers, Qazi was dreaming of becoming an actor.

After he left his senior secondary school, he realised that Kashmir lacks opportunities. To follow his dreams, he moved out. Given the costs of living away from home, he opted for a modest life. At times, he thought he may not be able to realise his ambition. “I really wanted to do filmmaking and everything associated with the craft.”

Qazi started to work on small individual projects with zero budgets with the help of his friends. They identified some social issues and started making amateur films and he would get in. This he was doing while pursuing a degree in commerce.

Then, in Delhi, he did some backstage in some plays. Besides, he attended some workshops. Back home, he tried to find something which is even remotely associated with filmmaking. Finally, he joined masters in journalism at the Islamic University of Science and Technology. “It was a good experience learning journalism and the technicalities of how things work in media and TV.”

Post-masters, he joined a Srinagar company as a graphic designer. But he was not content with it. “I did not want to do that forever and still wanted to pursue acting as a career.”

In Srinagar, he got in touch with KJ Productions. Owned by Khawar Jamsheed, it was associated with multiple Bollywood films including Rockstar, Haidar, Bhajrangi Bhaijaan, and Fitoor.

He joined KJ Productions as an editor and also used to manage some office work. “Meanwhile, I also tried giving auditions for multiple projects like ads and films,” he said. “One day, I came to know that Mukesh Chhabra, a big casting director in the Indian film industry was looking for fresh faces in Kashmir to cast in big roles because he wanted to look his characters as authentic as possible.” This is how he landed in Laila Majnu.

After an audition, Qazi was shortlisted for a character. Later, he underwent a series of auditions and workshops and finally got a role.

“This was a special moment of my life,” Qazi said. He flew to Mumbai and met the cast and the crew including the film director Sajid Ali and the creative director Imtiaz Ali there. “I was a bit nervous before meeting them but they made me very comfortable. It was a dream come true to work in a Hindi feature film and was a learning experience for me as an actor.”

This opened Qazi to a new world. He started understanding the sheer amount of hard work that goes into the making of a film. He acknowledges the contribution that the cast and crew of the film contributed to honing his skills.

With a film in his portfolio, Qazi moved to Mumbai and is living with a friend. After Laila Majnu, Qazi got a lead role in a soap opera Gathbandhan that will be his TV debut.

Gathbandan is weaved around a romantic story where Qazi will play a role of a gangster Raghu from Dombiovili Maharashtra. He falls in love with a non-Marathi IPS officer. Thus law and crime will get knotted in this romantic saga.

Qazi says he is lucky as he finds good support at home. Parents usually do not prefer their kids getting into Bollywood. “My family always trusted me and wanted me to pursue what I wanted in life,” he said. “Without the support of your family, it is very difficult for anyone to do anything with the right mindset.”

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