Lights, Camera, Action!

Cinema Joys Return to Kashmir

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MIAN TUFAIL

In July 2023, a video went viral in Baramulla, a bustling town in north Kashmir. A man in his late 50s was joyfully slurping an ice-cream after watching a movie in the newly opened cinema hall. The man was laughing that he was reminded of his teenage years when he would implore his mother for money so that he could watch a movie with his friends. “My teenage years are back again,” the man exclaimed happily in Kashmiri.

Such scenes have been witnessed in Srinagar, Kupwara, Shopian and Kulgam, where cinema halls reopened after about 30 years. Kashmiris love movies. They are reveling in the joy of going to the cinema, and also welcoming cinestars in the valley for shooting their movies.

Heartwarming Comeback Of Cinema

In the serene and majestic valley of Kashmir, a cinematic renaissance is taking place. This revival is not just a mere return to the past, but a rebirth filled with passion, hope, and a heartfelt connection to a land that has always been a symphony of nature’s finest melodies.

Kashmir, once the most coveted destination for Bollywood, is witnessing a heartwarming comeback of cinema, bringing with it stories that echo the whispers of its mountains, the songs of its lakes, and the warmth of its people. Today, a new chapter unfolds in the region with the revival of cinema, bringing not just entertainment but a profound sense of normalcy and joy to the people of Kashmir.

A Dream Reawakened

The return of cinema halls in Srinagar, Baramulla, Kupwara, Shopian and Kulgam marks a significant milestone in Kashmir’s journey towards peace and cultural rejuvenation. Theatres in more townships are set to open soon, and Kashmiris are thrilled about it. We lived through more than 30 years of turmoil, where the melodies of the movie songs were drowned by the echoes of conflict. The silver screens are lighting up once again, casting a warm glow of hope across the valley.

Kashmir’s beauty is unparalleled, with its snow-capped peaks, verdant meadows, and crystal-clear lakes providing a canvas so vivid that it transcends the ordinary. This natural allure first captivated Bollywood in the 1960s and 70s, creating a golden era that charmed cinegoers with the country and abroad, heralding the powerful soft power of Brand Bollywood. Films like Kashmir Ki Kali, Mere Sanam, Jab Jab Phool Khile and many more immortalized the valley’s enchanting landscapes.

Today, Kashmir has welcomed a new dawn. With security improving and life returning to normalcy, the valley is once again opening its arms to filmmakers. The excitement is palpable as the people of Kashmir throng to the newly inaugurated theaters. The atmosphere is charged with anticipation, reminiscent of bygone days. The resurgence of cinema has also attracted the attention of Bollywood, with megastars like Ajay Devgan and Emran Hashmi gracing the valley for their film shoots. Their presence is not just a testament to the region’s captivating beauty but also a nod to its newfound peace and stability.

Last month, celebrated Bollywood director Rohit Shetty completed the shooting of his highly anticipated film Singham Again in Kashmir, featuring Ajay Devgn in the lead role. The director took to Instagram to share his experiences and express his gratitude towards the people of Kashmir. He described the Kashmir shoot schedule as the “most amazing and emotional” and highlighted the transformation of the region following the abrogation of Article 370.

Thousands of happy Kashmiris thronged Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar city to see Ajay Devgn shooting for Singham Again. Emran Hashmi was in Baramulla for the shooting for his film Ground Zero, and the excitement among fans was palpable.

In a heartfelt conversation with KC, Ghulam Hassan of Sopore reminisced about his childhood memories linked to cinema. He recalled the joy and excitement of visiting cinema houses, which were tragically targeted by terrorists. “After the turmoil in 1990, cinema houses became prime targets for terrorists, who vandalized them in broad daylight,” he shared.

Hassan’s eyes sparkled as he recounted his school days in Sopore. “We used to go to Samad Talkies after school hours,” he said, his voice tinged with nostalgia. ” The romanticism, the action, the stories—they are still vivid in my mind. The enthusiasm was so high that we saved our pocket money just to watch movies. The craze for Mithun Chakraborty, Amitabh Bachchan, and Raj Babbar was immense. We, the youth, saw ourselves in these actors. But the turmoil of the 1990s ruined everything.”

Javed Bhat, an entrepreneur at Pulwama, said that for years, Kashmiri youths yearned for joyful activities of leisure. “Since our teenage years, we always used to be excited about going to Jammu. There we would go to cinema halls, watch movies and have fun. Now people across Kashmir are happy that cinema halls have opened here too,” said Bhat.

Cinema’s Soft Power

The intersection of Bollywood and Kashmir goes beyond cinematic allure; it touches the heart. By showcasing Kashmir’s breathtaking beauty and cultural richness, films can shift perceptions, countering negative narratives and fostering unity and understanding. Bollywood’s presence in Kashmir is more than a visual treat. It is an emotional journey that reconnects the audience with the valley’s soul.

Bollywood’s powerful influence on tourism cannot be overstated. The picturesque settings showcased in films often captivate viewers, compelling them to visit the locations featured on screen. By choosing to film in Kashmir, Bollywood has the unique opportunity to rejuvenate the region’s tourism industry, which has faced significant challenges due to political instability.

The enchanting beauty of Kashmir, once vividly portrayed in classic films, can once again draw travelers from around the world, eager to experience its splendor firsthand. An increase in tourism can lead to sustainable economic growth, providing much-needed benefits to local communities and promoting a more positive narrative about Kashmir. This renewed interest in Kashmir’s breathtaking landscapes and rich culture can help foster a sense of hope and revival, transforming the region into a symbol of resilience and allure.

Now, British Movie Being Shot In Kashmir

A Million Dollar Tourist. This is the name of the British movie being shot in Kashmir with British actors, Kashmiri actors and the crew from Mumbai.

Over May and June, Verinag, Sinthan Top, Daksum, Kokernag and other beautiful spots in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district have been abuzz with the shooting of the British movie.

The movie team will also go to Shopian for the shooting. About 70 per cent of the movie’s production cost shall be spent on the shooting in Kashmir.

A Future Illuminated

The revival of cinema in Kashmir is more than just the reopening of theaters. It is a revival of dreams, a resurgence of hope, and a reclaiming of joy. It is a reminder that after the darkest of nights, the dawn always comes. The people of Kashmir are not just watching films; they are witnessing the unfolding of their own stories of resilience, love, and triumph.

As we turn the page to this new chapter, the valley echoes with the laughter and cheers of its people. The story of Kashmir’s cinema revival is not just about films. It is about a community coming back to life, a culture rediscovering its voice, and a region embracing a future filled with promise and peace.

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