OPENING of a multiplex at the high-security Sonawar in Srinagar has brought cinemas back to the Kashmir Valley after over three decades. The theatre’s inaugural film was Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha, a big-budget remake of 1994 American classic “Forrest Gump” which was, in part, shot in Ladakh and Srinagar.
In 1989, as militancy gripped the Kashmir Valley, theatre owners downed their shutters. Though there was an attempt to reopen a cinema hall along the posh Residency Road in 1999, a grenade attack on the moviegoers killed one and injured several others, forcing the authorities to close the theatre again. Ever since, no other cinema hall has dared to screen any movie. Some of them like Palladium in Lal Chowk have been gutted and the others like Shah Cinema near Qamarwari have been used to accommodate the security personnel. So, the opening of a multiplex is a big development as it testifies to the return of a degree of normalcy to the union territory.
But despite the turmoil, many movies have been shot in Kashmir over the last three decades. This has included the films of Bollywood megastars such as Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan, the last one shot sequences of Lal Singh Chaddha last year. About twenty movies have been shot in the Valley during the troubled period, a number of them reflecting Kashmir either as an abode of unyielding terror, or an unremitting battleground between India and Pakistan. Shah Rukh Khan, who shot Jab Tak Hai Jaan a decade ago, used Kashmir’s breathtaking geography as a backdrop for a love story rather than as a subject for a story about terrorism. Two years before Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Ranbir Kapoor starrer Rockstar was also shot in the Valley. It restored the Valley to its original image as a romantic abode after the intervening dose of conflict cinema.
Bollywood’s return to the Valley – and now followed by a multiplex – however, portrays more than peace. Unlike in the past, Bollywood’s relationship with Kashmir is no longer spontaneous and natural. Like everything else in the Valley, it has also become political. Movie-making in Kashmir is about peace, about reinforcing Kashmir’s image as a paradise on earth, and also about reflecting the turmoil in the region. But being able to watch a movie at a cinema hall in Srinagar shows Kashmir has come a long way. It indicates a certain level of normalcy that has been restored. (Kashmir Observer)