BY KUNAL MAJUMDER for Tehelka’s Independence Day Special Issue on Love
IN 1989, Kashmir changed for ever. Militancy assumed an ugly face in the Valley, altering the lives of Kashmiris and putting a stop to Muzaffar Ali’s ambitious project — Zooni. Ali, then 43, had already made a name for himself through Umrao Jaan and was working on a film about Habba Khatoon, a poetess who lived in 16th century Kashmir and rose to become a queen. Unnerved, he returned to Delhi. Waiting to restart filming Zooni, he began a small project to make films on improving the habitat. At his new office in the Sarai Kale Khan area in south Delhi worked a 20-year-old architecture graduate from Gujarat’s Institute of Environmental Design — Meera Saluja.
“We got to know each other better and became friends. We realised there were a lot of things we could do together,” recalls the filmmaker. “Sometimes in life, you have dreams that cannot be realised alone. My one dream was already shattered. I had to start afresh.” Six weeks after meeting each other, Meera and Muzaffar Ali married on 13 May, 1990. Meera’s parents, who were originally from Lahore, were opposed to this alliance. “They were worried because of the inter-religious nature of our relationship. It took them a year to accept us,” recalls Meera. Does the difference in religion affect their relationship? “Religion is a very private affair. Love is about understanding,” she adds…by