Bollywood's Kashmir romance wanes

Bollywood's Kashmir romance wanes

Bollywood's Kashmir romance wanes

Kashmir  was once  a favoured destination for film shooting, with Bollywood heroes and heroines cavorting around Poplar trees on the Srinagar- Baramulla Road. It is no longer so  thanks  to  the turmoil of terrorism. Now only a handful of Bollywood movies are shot there. In recent years these include films like Mission Kashmir, Tahan, Sikander and Lamha.

A major portion of Mission Kashmir  released in 2000 was shot in the Dal Lake. The film director Vidhu Vinod Chopra himself has  a Kashmir background as he has studied in Srinagar. His family had settled  there. Tahan, starring Anupum Kher, Rahul Bose, Rahul Khanna and others was shot in Pahalgam area in south Kashmir. Some parts of  Sikander  was picturised at different places in the Valley. Same is the case with the yet to be released Lamha starring Sanjay Dutt and Bipasha Basu.

The Lamha unit had a very long film schedule in the Valley.  The  song in the Hindi movie Mera Man ……  in the  film Man was picturised in the snow clad picturesque Gulmarg on Aaimr Khan and Manisha Koirala in 1998.

 Abdul Gani, a boatman living near the  Dal Lake, has seen the present  Bollywood stars Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan and others only on  television and cinema screens. He has never met them personally simply because these Bollywood stars do not come to Kashmir to shoot movies any more .

Spoke to actors

Watching film shooting was a passion for Abdul Gani in the past. He would stop work and go to film locations to meet his favourites actors.  The boatman says with pride  that he met Amitabh Bachachan, Rajesh Khanna, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Sanjay Khan, Dharmendra, Firoz Khan, Rajinder Kumar, Sunil Dutt and others whenever they were in Kashmir for film shooting. “Not only did I watch the shooting but even spoke to the actors when they were free in between sessions. Almost all of them were impressed with the scenic beauty of Kashmir and the hospitality of local people,” Gani said. These were films like Kashmir ki Kali and Junglee, among others.

The boatman said though he  is a  fan of the new generation stars including Shahrukh, Salman, Hrithik and others he has never met them. “In fact my children like them more than me. But barring Amitabh they do not know much about the stars of the 1980s and 1970s.

They find it difficult to  believe that I have actually met  these  great actors of Bollywood right here in Kashmir. They think the actors and actresses from Mumbai do not like visiting Kashmir due to disturbances’’, added Gani.

If the beautiful locations of Europe can be profusely seen in Bollywood films now, the Dal Lake, Mughal Gardens, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Aharbal of Kashmir added to the grace of the Hindi movies till the 1980s. Even South Indian film makers occasionally  visited  Kashmir for shooting.

But after the onset of militancy, the film crew stopped coming to the Valley owing to  security threats from terrorism. The tourism sector was shattered. From 1996 when Assembly elections were held for the first time in the state during the militancy, the state government made efforts to persuade the Bollywood film makers to visit Kashmir for shooting.

Producers with low budget films

The then chief ministers Dr Farooq Abdullah and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed held meetings with producers and directors at different times to invite them to Kashmir. But their efforts failed  to attract them. Only producers with low budget films occasionally arrived in Kashmir to  shoot films for short durations.  These included some movies made on Kashmir in the backdrop of the militancy.

Interestingly, some mega films on Kashmir were not shot in Kashmir but in Europe. It appears that the Bollywood has almost forgotten Kashmir now. 

Noted film actor Naseer-u-Din Shah, who was recently in the Valley, said if the situation continued like this film makers would completely forget that movies were once shot in the Valley.

Film actress Nandita Das during her recent visit stated that Kashmir has tremendous potential for film shooting and it should be fully utilised since the situation has normalised to a great extent.

Both Shah and Nandita were in Kashmir for a theatre workshop. Since 1997 it was Shah’s first visit to Kashmir. He  had participated in a show in Srinagar and returned to Mumbai. Kashmir was earlier used by film makers from outside for shooting and as a result  the Valley  never developed  its own film industry. Only a couple of films were made in Kashmiri. But the experiment of making movies in Kashmiri did not succeed. People still prefer to watch Hindi movies rather  than Kashmiri ones.

Before the eruption of militancy till 1989, 12 cinema theatres  flourished in the Valley. But militants forced these to close down.  Also the security forces later occupied some of these cinema complexes.

After 1996 three cinema theatres were re-opened. However, two of them were closed down again due to a militant attack and financial constraints. Only one threatre is running normally in Kashmir with few viewers patronising it . People prefer to watch movies only on their television screens.

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