Kashmir has now become the muse for Bollywood

Lamhaa

The land of breathtaking beauty with its snowcapped mountains, majestic Chinar trees and the beautiful Dal Lake, Kashmir was Bollywood's favourite setting for romances like "Do Badan", "Kashmir Ki Kali", "Jab Jab Phool Khile", "Aarzoo", "Kabhi Kabhi" and "Bobby".

But it is not the mere beauty of the place that is luring the filmmakers back to the region after a gap of two decades. They want to depict its troubled past and the aspirations of the young generation, making Kashmir their latest muse.

Movies like "Yahaan", "Shaurya", "Tahaan", recently released "Sikander" and national-award winning filmmaker Rahul Dholakia's upcoming "Lamhaa" indicate that filmmakers are looking towards Kashmir with a renewed interest.

"Kashmir is a beautiful place and no one can dispute that but I think there is more to the place than its beauty only. Kashmir has a history and it is time that it reflected in our cinema," Dholakia, who has directed "Lamhaa" said.

The film, starring Sanjay Dutt and Bipasha Basu, is a love story set in Kashmir and the director hopes that he will be able to dispel some of the stereotypes attached to the region and its people.

The 'Parzania' director, who had a tough time shooting the movie in Kashmir after protests by local people, had extensively researched about Kashmir before making it the setting of his film.

"It is a great place and people are nice. Yes, there were certain problems but I would love to shoot there again," said Dholakia. Bipasha, who plays the role of a Kashmiri woman in the movie, believes that the film can not be branded as an "art" movie just because it is about Kashmir. "It is commercial film it can not be branded as an art film. It is the story of Kashmiri people, their problems and their challenges and my role is very dear to me," she said.

Director Piyush Jha, who shot 'Sikandar' in Kashmir's Pahalgam, Uri and Anantnag areas, said, "I set the story in Kashmir because of the visual metaphor. I strived to contrast the beauty of 'Mother Nature' against the cruelty of human nature. The film deals with the universal manipulation of adolescence by the nasty games played by adults."

"Sikander" depicted the struggle of a 14-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a football player but his life takes a nasty turns when he stumbles upon a gun. Starring Parzan Dastur, Ayesha Kapoor, Sanjay Suri and R Madhavan, the film depicted the tale of lost childhood and innocence in the shadow of violence.

Actor Sanjay Suri, a native of Kashmir, who visited the place after a gap of 18 years while shooting for the movie, believes that Bollywood is yet to come out with a story about the valley.

"The kind of films that are being shot today should have been made 15 years back. I don't think Kashmir problem has been explored properly in Bollywood. There have been so many movies on Gujarat riots but there is not a single movie which explores about what happened in Kashmir during the militancy.

"A lot has happened in the last 20 years, the place is still beautiful but the colour has gone," Suri said. In the past few years, films like "Mission Kashmir" (2000), "Yahaan" (2005) and Santosh Sivan's "Tahaan" (2008) have tried to portray the problems faced by the Kashmiris.

Sivan, a celebrated cinematographer, who had captured Kashmir in Mani Ratnam's "Roja" in 1992, returned to the valley as a director to shoot his fabled story about a young boy and his struggle to reunite with his beloved donkey.

The film tried to look at some of the serious issues plaguing Kashmir through the eyes of an 11-year-old child, whose life seems normal on the surface but is not devoid of the bitter realities of his birthplace.

Actor R Madhavan, who played a kind-hearted army officer posted in Kashmir in "Sikander", feels that Kashmir should not be looked upon as unsafe anymore.

"They (Kashmiri people) are yearning for normalcy which is sad because the common man is not a militant and it doesn't matter to him who is ruling. He wants to live life, earn his livelihood and make sure his future generation is safe and sound," the actor said.

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