From Surankote to Mumbai

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For Rahat Kazmi, the young director who shot into limelight with his debut film Dekh Bhai Dekh, success consists of a series of little daily victories. Aliya Bashir talks to the man about his journey from a remote J&K village to Bollywood.

For some success could mean achieving a goal in life and for many it may be about realising a potential. No matter how one may define success, but the first step towards it is taken when a person refuses to be a captive of the environment he or she finds himself in.
For Rahat Kazmi, success consists of a series of little daily victories. It is the overall package of struggle, audacity, acumen and ambition which has helped him to become one of the youngest Bollywood directors from the strife-torn state.
After his maiden release “Dekh Bhai Dekh” which steals the show across India with its humorous package, he is all set to start work on his forthcoming movie “Ballay Ballay”, which is expected to shoot some scenes in his homeland.
“I am looking forward to do some films in Kashmir. I am planning to shoot my upcoming film in Kashmir, Punjab, and Canada,” says Kazmi.
Kazmi’s debut film as director, Dekh Bhai Dekh, released on July 17 has been a hit among the audiences. Not only has he directed the movie but written the script as well. He has wonderfully interwoven, through happy and sad flashbacks, the lives and troubles of characters Shyam (Siddarth Koirala) Babli(Gracy Singh), Yadav (Raghuvir Yadav), and Vijay Raaz (Charan). The dialogues gel well throughout the storyline.
“I am so excited about the overall ratings, response and reviews of my film,” beams, 29-year-old, Kazmi. “After my film was released, the expectation levels automatically went up among my fans, putting more responsibility on my shoulders”.
Born and brought up in a remote village in Surankote Poonch – a place battered by encounters, crackdowns, daily body count, oppression and deafening sounds of gunfire and bombs, nothing could dampen his spirits. Today for many, Surnakote is a famous address to relate to.
Kazmi says the support he received from his parents and friends played a huge role in his success. “It (success) would have never been possible without the support of my parents. I am proud of my parents who always encouraged me during the most turbulent times of my career,” he says.
 Like every other youngster in his village, Kazmi dreamed to become a doctor, but fate had something else in store for him.
“When I was in 8th standard I started writing poetry with a pinch of storytelling, abetting my hidden passion for entertainment,” says Kazmi.
“I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to acquire skills for making films, but I was always a die-hard movie buff,” he adds.
Kazmi comes from the family of noted Sufi poet Vilayat Ali Shah Bukhari, who had tremendous influence in the area. For Kazmi, Bukhari was the “first inspiration” and the source of his fascination for poetry. However, he would be famous through a different art – directing movies.
“As soon as news that I have directed a movie spread, I started getting congratulatory phone calls from my village and even from those whom I did not know,” says Kazmi.
Denying having faced any discrimination being a Kashmiri-Muslim, he said, “My acquaintances in the entire film industry treat me like a king. Besides, I have a strong belief that if a person has a dream and wants it to come true, the entire world will help him to accomplish that dream”.
Films were his first love and such was the passion that he shot a movie on a small camera and screened it in the video halls of his small village.
But a bigger success demanded much more struggle and hard work. He left for Mumbai when he was studying in 12th standard, without any expertise in film-making or acting.
His dreams were shattered, when Doordarshan Metro channel was converted into a news channel. “At that time, we were producing a drama series Tamanna for DD Metro in which we had invested more than Rs 14 lakh,” recalls Kazmi.
“Angry and disappointed” he returned to Jammu.
“I came to Jammu where I started making small films for Doordarshan,” says Kazmi.
Life changed forever when he shifted to Delhi to make a series on Bollywood personalities for E Tv. He got in touch with several film industry bigwigs who, Kazmi says, appreciated his work. “And then came a big moment with Dekh Bhai Dekh. I showed the script to producer Dr Vivek Sudershan. Who approved it right away,” he says.
Kazmi wishes to make a film in Kashmir, where paddy fields, green in early summer and golden by autumn, envelop the cluster of mud and brick houses.
More than 10 years in his profession, there is no looking back for young Kazmi. However, deep inside he misses the winters of his native place, where “snow slid slowly from rooftops and fell on huge meadows with a thud”.  
“I want to eat icicles mixed with concoction of milk and sugar and make a snowman for a toy.
“I crave sitting on the storefronts along with my friends warming ourselves with kangris after a snowfall,” says Kazmi.
He is waiting to have a prolific tapestry of happiness for the valley, where “moon may have gone pallid and sun may have beaten the people”. He wishes the return of happiness in his native land.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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