After her movie ‘Half Widow’ trailer triggered a raging response on social media, a Kashmiri actor Neelofar Hamid is busy playing another roles in director Danish Renzu’s next “Songs of Paradise” and “Pashmina”. Previously she has worked as casting director for Bollywood flicks including ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ (2012) and ‘Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani’ (2013). Besides movies, Neelofar is presently preparing for her role in the stage play ‘Malkhaesh Wati Zaroor’ (Gravedigger will certainly come). In a candid chat with Free Press Kashmir, the actor talks about her film and her experience of playing the role of ‘Half Widow’—the movie, she terms, as the story of ‘hope, of fate, of misfortune, of acceptance and of reality.’
Was there anything in particular that inspired you to act in the film ‘Half Widow’?
The biggest thing that inspired me to act in the movie was that the movie is based on something that is very real: the story of half widows in Kashmir.
This movie is reflective of the pain of anyone who has lost a brother, a father, a husband or anyone close to them. The movie has a very inspirational and motivational message for all the half widows of Kashmir about not giving up on life and learning to move on in the face of all the hardships that they have faced and the pain that they’ve endured.
What difficulties did you face while shooting the film?
I picked up an injury while shooting a scene for the film in which my husband is getting arrested and I fall down while running and trying to stop them from taking him. [Smiles gently] That was one difficulty I faced as we lost some time on the shoot.
Also, we had some difficulties shooting during curfew as a lot of restrictions were put in place hampering our movement. But the people, especially the people of Downtown, were really supportive and in fact helped us with the shoot.
I’m really thankful to them for showing their support and for their help.
So there was no one among the locals who intruded the shoot?
There were a few guys who tried to create some disturbance but they were quickly rebuked by the shopkeepers from where we were shooting the sequence. That encouraged us to continue the shooting.
Acting-wise, how difficult did you find to play the role?
Yeah, it was quite demanding a role given the fact that I was playing a very sensitive character in the film. I found it quite challenging when I first read the script to play the character of a woman whose husband gets disappeared and she is shattered. But I found the journey extremely mesmerizing and full of encouragement as she fights all odds to rise above everything else and come out stronger and more powerful in the end. I found that concept really lifting.
Talking more about the character, I hadn’t played a character before with such diverse emotions as “Neela” in this film. She is full of nervous excitement in the beginning of the film where she is about to get married, is happy soon after, and then is hit with a shock with the sudden disappearance of her husband. She gets extremely distressed when she cannot find her husband anywhere and then I had to try my best to show, as naturally as I could, the hopelessness that she feels at not finding her husband. She reaches to the brink of losing her mind and then pulls herself back.
Hers was an extremely engrossing journey and for me, it was a very challenging role to play as an actor. I personally did a lot of research on the half widows of Kashmir and I also met Parveena Ahanger. At the APDP office, I met many half widows and I tried to associate myself with them and understand their pain though it is never possible to completely understand what they go through, like one hundred percent. You just cannot do that. Their pain is just too immense.
How satisfactory a role was it to play? How did you feel post-shooting?
It wasn’t much serious when we started rehearsing. But just a few days into the rehearsals, I started to realize the gravity of the role. I got so deep into character that it took me more than a couple of months after the shooting to come out of the role. That’s how it was post shoot. I still reminisce sometimes.
There’s a dearth of movies revolving around women-centric issues. You picked one of them and that too from a conflict zone. How do you think the audience will react?
Honestly I was a little apprehensive about the reaction when the teaser came out. But almost all the comments that I got were full of appreciation and support. There were a few people who opposed it, saying that making a film is not going to help the situation in any way. But I guess people like that just need to be educated more about the power of the arts. They may just be ignorant about the impact movies can have upon the society.
Other than that, most of the people were all praises for the film as an endeavor to highlight the pain of the half widows. I think the people here have evolved a lot over time and now they’re more understanding and receptive of these things.
A film has a power to impact the viewers. How do you think this movie will influence the audience?
‘Half Widow’ is a real story. This is a story of hope, of fate, of misfortune, of acceptance and of reality. The prime message behind this film is one to never give up and never lose hope. It is about strength in the face of adversity and struggling to keep the hope inside you alive. I think that is the intended effect of the movie. That is the effect we want it to have upon anyone who sees it. We want the audience to know that bad times shall not remain forever and that they should stay strong.
That is how we want the film to impact the viewers; filling them with strength and optimism. See, you feel a power when you accept the reality and when you buckle up to face it. The protagonist in the film also feels a surge in power when she comes out of denial and starts accepting the reality that surrounds her. That’s what it is about. Accepting the reality and moving on.