"Everywhere that we shot-- Pehelgam, Sonmarg, Gulmarg-- all the hotels were booked from before we reached. People in Kashmir already knew Salman was coming," says Kabir.
The level of enthusiasm displayed by the Kashmiri population was unprecedented. Says Kabir, "I am told that nothing of this sort has been witnessed before. Many very popular Bollywood stars have shot in Kashmir recently. But nothing compares with the crowds that gathered to watch Salman. It was sheer madness."
But madness with a method. "Not once in 40 days was our shooting disrupted. Of course the locals were excited, very excited. They gathered in thousands to see Salman wherever we shot. But the crowds never got restless or aggressive. If they unknowingly crossed the line we just had to ask them to step back and they did so immediately. They just wanted to look and maybe meet Salman and Kareena."
Salman Khan made sure he spent time with the Kashmiri population.
Says Kabir, "Salman got an offer to be the brand ambassador for Kashmir. But he doesn't need to hold an official position to get things moving. In 40 days he worked wonders for Kashmiri tourism by simply being there in the Valley, mingling with the locals. A lot of his charity work was introduced into the Valley. And yes, the myth of Kashmir being a terror-infested area has already been broken by the fact that Salman Khan could shoot there for 40 days without a single incident."
Kabir says the reports coming out of Kashmir about the law and order situation are highly exaggerated. "We're given the impression that people are getting killed all the time. There was not one incident while we shot in the Valley. In fact the last time there was terror attack on Pahalgam was 8 years ago. What we hear about Kashmir is not true. By shooting in the Valley without any incident tourism in Kashmir shot up while Salman shot there."
Kabir admits it was touch and go when Salman Khan returned to Mumbai in the middle of the Kashmir schedule for the honourable court's verdict on the hit-and-run case. "Look, we were tense. But not about the film's future. We were sure that there were higher courts to go to in case the verdict was unfavourable to Salman. But as friends and well-wishers we were concerned. And when he re-joined us in Kashmir there was much jubilation. The feeling of happiness was palpable."
Incidentally this was not only Salman's first visit to the Valley, but also Kareena's first visit as an adult.
Says Kabir, "She had visited Kashmir with her family as a child. But she had never shot in Kashmir although the whole family had done so. It was new experience for both Salman and Kareena."