The great poet Amir Khusrau wrote this couplet to describe the beauty of Kashmir but it continues to evoke this very sentiment even today in the heart of many travellers—including us.
A couple of months ago when we started creating a capsule traditional-wear collection for bridesmaids, groomsmen and the wedding tribe, we decided to include a particular green hue that had caught our eye. The colour, in the Pantone shade card, is called ‘Kashmir.’ This discovery led to the idea of shooting the campaign in Jammu & Kashmir amidst the beautiful valleys that are surrounded by the bountiful green of its namesake colour and a plethora of other lively colours of the flowers from the valley that represents the colour palette of the collection. We started by doing a virtual recce of the many picturesque locations in the state, but it was the beautiful Dal Lake where we stopped our search.
We started preparing for this campaign shoot months in advance as we were well-versed in the protocols of shooting at a landmark location. From procuring several permissions to coordinating with a production team on the site who were involved in doing an in-depth recce, we did all the homework way ahead and from Mumbai.
And with each passing moment, our eagerness to head to this stunning state increased inexplicably. A week before the shoot, we started tracking the weather to understand how the three days of the shoot will turn out to be. We were assured by our local production team that the weather would be great and, in fact, would act as a catalyst in making the campaign look even more exquisite.
On the shoot day, we caught an early morning flight from Mumbai to Srinagar. The transition from hot and humid to cold and pleasant was delightful and inviting. After a round of security checks at the Srinagar airport, we headed to Hotel Dar-Es-Salaam where we were put up for the next three days. Overlooking Nigeen Lake, the hotel is quiet and cosy, offering a relaxed and luxurious stay to its guests. After settling in, we headed out with the team to do a recce of the Dal Lake.
Known to be one of the most beautiful and serene places in Jammu & Kashmir, the lake is located in the heart of Srinagar. It is surrounded by the majestic Himalayas and is known for its tranquil waters, floating gardens and colourful houseboats. The view of the lake from the Mughal Gardens is breathtakingly beautiful, with the snow-capped mountains in the background adding to its charm. We knew then that there wouldn’t be a location better than this to shoot our campaign. We were mesmerised by the shimmering reflection of the surrounding mountains and the houseboats in the water that created a picture-perfect postcard view. After the recce, we returned to our hotel to enjoy the calm before the (shoot) storm. Back in the hotel, our staff were extremely hospitable and ensured we had a comfortable stay. For dinner, we were served the local, traditional vegetarian fare that was delectable. It intrigued us to try some more delicacies of Kashmiri cuisine in the following three days.
The following morning, the entire team were up and about by 3 am and getting everything in place so that the first shot happened at the break of the dawn. Everyone was ready by 5 am and we then headed out to the location in the car till Gate no. 14 and then took a short boat ride to an island deck where we shot some looks. We broke for a quick lunch and then made it to the boathouses for shooting the remaining looks for the day. With the last rays of sunset serenading us, we shot the final look of the day and proceeded for a celebration of Falguni Peacock’s birthday.
“I wouldn’t have imagined celebrating my birthday at the beautiful Dal Lake watching the sunset with my fabulous team. It was a surreal experience and something that I will always fondly remember. Moreover, my birthday cake was to die for! It was just the perfect way to celebrate my birthday and the successful day one of the campaign shoot,” Falguni said. The party then continued at the hotel where everyone let their hair down and chatted the night away!
But that didn’t let anyone stay in bed for long the following morning as we were up on our feet and shooting the looks for Day 2 as planned. It was yet again at Dal Lake because we found many more spots that were worthy of being captured. Even though we had done the weather analysis and kept an eye out on the predictions by the MET, the sky was cloudy and it looked like a downpour was awaiting us. Thankfully, most of the day went by without a speck of rain, but it was towards the end of the day that it rained and we had to rush to put our entire team on the boat. The combination of rain and snow made us freeze but we managed to get to the hotel. After a while when the weather cleared up, both of us decided to have dinner at a local Kashmiri restaurant that was known to be popular. “While Falguni relished the vegetarian delicacies, the chefs at the restaurant were kind enough to make vegan renditions of some of their signature dishes,” Shane said. Coincidentally, most of our team was also present at the restaurant and that almost led us to have an afterparty for Falguni’s birthday. We called it a day early as we had to prepare for our editorial shoot the next day.
The next day we woke up to a heavy snowfall that dampened our plans to shoot at the snow-clad Dal Lake. But it did not deter our spirits as we decided impromptu to visit Gulmarg and shoot the editorial there. We stopped by for a quick lunch at the world-class property ~ The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spas. We readied ourselves for the editorial shoot and hit the snow-covered grounds in the vicinity. What followed was a riveting shoot that captured the beat of the Falguni Shane Peacock outfits and Gulmarg. After wrapping up when we were about to head back, the snowfall was at it again but this time it was more severe than earlier in the day. With almost zero visibility and a host of suitcases in tow, we drove for a couple of hours cautiously while still being hit by the hailstorm. We reached back safely to our hotel after an adventurous road ride and settled in to bask in the success of our first-ever campaign shoot in Jammu & Kashmir.
With a resolve of coming back again to shoot at many more stunning locations in the state, we headed towards Mumbai. The city, the campaign and the experience will always be etched in our memories.