Cinema in Kashmir

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Kashmir – once the favourite destination of Bollywood film makers – got disconnected from the film world when in early 90’s, armed groups backed by some religious organizations forced shutting of cinema halls in the length and breadth of Valley. After almost nine years, in 1999, then government headed by Farooq Abdullah attempted to reopen a few movie theatres, however, on the very first day of opening, there was a grenade attack on one of the reopened cinemas killing one and injuring 12 other persons. Since then though the governments, that be, would occasionally talk about opening of cinema halls, no serious effort was ever made. However, respective governments convinced some film makers to shoot their films in Kashmir. Now that the INOX multiplex opens in Srinagar, the local cinema goers of yesteryears will be watching movies on a big screen after three decades while as for the post-1980 generation, it will be the first experience within the Valley.

Located in Srinagar’s Sonwar area, the multiplex has three auditoriums, a total seating capacity of 520 people, food outlets, game rooms and the latest audio systems. Ahead of opening of the multiplex in Srinagar, J&K’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha inaugurated multipurpose cinema halls at Pulwama and Shopian districts of south Kashmir. It may be recalled here that these two districts used to be hot-spots of stone-pelting and strikes before 2019. The UT administration is aiming to have such cinema halls in all districts.

The opening of cinema halls has been appreciated by the majority of the people in Kashmir as it marks the reemergence of the culture that was dumped in early 90’s. Prior to closure of cinema halls in Kashmir, these halls would always attract huge crowds. The initiative has also been hailed by local film makers as they would get ample opportunities to make films and screen the same in Kashmir itself. Film making is not only about infotainment. It generates employment. As mentioned earlier, Kashmir has had a strong bond with Bollywood. It was not a dream destination for film makers only but the actors and actresses too would be looking forward to shoot in the Valley.

From Raj Kapoor’s Barsat to Rajesh Khana’s Aap Ki Kassam; from Dilip Kumar’s Karma to Shami Kapoor’s Kashmir Ki Kali or Amitabh Bachchan’s Narwal Lal, all were shot in Kashmir.The UT government’s decision of opening the cinema halls in Kashmir is undoubtedly going to reconnect Kashmir with Bollywood and thus not only bring the Valley back on the film map of the country but would also help opening avenues for employment generation.

The UT government has recently adopted a new film policy aimed at encouraging country’s film makers to make movies in Kashmir besides providing an opportunity to the local film makers, cinematographers, choreographers, musicians, screenplay writers and actors to test their talent. The fresh initiatives have every potential to give boost to the film making in Kashmir, however, the execution of new film policy will exclusively depend on the UT administration as to how it minimizes the red-tapism and makes the policy more ‘film-maker-friendly.’

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