To Bagh-e-Mehtaab

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Kashmir has moved from the love for Bollywood to a participant in Bollywood. Zulkifla Shakeel meets Zain Khan Durrani, the latest actor who plays a lead role in a romantic film set to release in February

Kashmir’s love for Bollywood survived the acid test in which even cinemas were locked. Now Kashmiri youth are trying their luck on Mumbai sets. The latest entry is Zain Khan Durrani, a commerce graduate from Delhi University, who landed in a lead role in Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz. Award-winning director Onir has directed the flick.

Durani is the second Kashmiri who will play a lead after Zaira Wasim’s Dangal, a film that got her enough of rave reviews, appreciation and awards, the latest by the state government as well. She has already done a second film Secret Superstar.

A resident of Srinagar’s uptown Bagh-e-Mehtab, Durrani, 26, has done his schooling at Burn Hall School and later joined Delhi Public School, Srinagar. As a bright student, he always remained active in creative works. Apart from participating in theatre and debates, he says, he writes poetry as well. Finally, he got admission in Zakir Hussain College, in commerce stream and shifted to Delhi in 2011.

In 2017, soon after his graduation, Durrani participated in an audition and was short-listed. Later, he met Onir who asked him to come to Mumbai for a screen test.

“Since I was quite young, the director asked me to assist him first for his another film,” Durrani said.It was in Mumbai that he got opportunities to work in a few documentaries and ads. “That was a start and since then I never looked back.”

In Mumbai, he loved to do what he was so passionate about. But the bit of “struggle” was at home. His doctor father and professor mother wanted him to join IAS and not the reel life.

“They wanted me to be an IAS like most parents in Kashmir started to think after Shah Faesal’s success,” Durrani said. “Honestly I was ready to do it but my parents somehow realised that I was in love with poetry and theatre.” Initially, his mother was a little hesitant but it did not take him a lot to convince her but his father has really been supportive of him.

“Finding a career you’re passionate about is not always easy, especially for Kashmiri’s, where there is so much of external pressure due to conflict with parents keen to make them doctors, engineers or IAS officers,” Durrani said. “There is nothing less than that.”

As Durrani’s debut movie is readying for release in February, he hopes that the movie will encourage other Kashmiri youth to pursue their dreams and not what their parents or the society wants them to do.

Acting, Durrani says is not the only career option in Bollywood. “There are so many specializations that suit Kashmirstalented, and skill set, there,” Durrani said. “But we lack exposure. We need to have production houses in Kashmir to tell our stories.”

Coming from a conflicted area, Durrani said the youth will have to survive with the baggage.“While it is good to have a political opinion but I think it is really important to stabilize our economic growth,” Durrani said. We have to move into the future a little more ambitiously.” At times, the stagnation in life in Kashmir sounds very depressing. “We don’t need to stop our lives. We need opportunities and be engaged in constructive activities.”

Duran’s film KuchhBheegeAlfaaz is scheduled for release on February 16, 2018. Produced by  Yoodlee Films, a venture of Saregama, the film also stars Geetanjali Thapa and as well. The storyline of the flicker that is public suggests that Durrani plays the role of RJ Alfaz who, despite his tremendous following, prefers staying detached and anonymous. There is Archana, a girl working at a creative agency, who is leukodermic but lives life to the fullest. A misplaced call helps them meet. This takes the film into the intense relationship between two unlikely characters, “one overly compensating, but in denial of her present, and the other buried under a dark secret of his past”.

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