After 32 long years, people in Kashmir Valley will be able to experience cinema at the first ever multiplex expected to open next month.The multiplex is being developed in Sonwar locality of Srinagar, a high-security zone next to the headquarters of the Indian Army's 15 Corps.
The multiplex, having three screens with a combined seating capacity of at least 520, will allow locals to watch movies on a big screen.
Vijay Dhar, a businessman who owned the iconic Broadway cinema, once considered among the best single screen theatres of north India, has now developed the multiplex in collaboration with leading theatre chain INOX.
“By developing a multiplex I want to provide the younger generations of Kashmir the same entertainment facilities which are available in the rest of India. For example, in order to get entertained the children in Jammu go to the cinema and watch movies of their choice but our children do not have such avenues,” said Dhar, who also runs Delhi Public School (DPS) Srinagar, a prominent school in the city.
Dhar, who is the son of D.P. Dhar, a famous Kashmiri Pandit politician who was a minister in the Indira Gandhi government, said that through this multiplex he also wanted to create local employment. For instance, the local barbecue kiosks will be preferred in the multiplex instead of giving a space to non-local food brands.
The operations and management of the property will be done by INOX. “Almost 90 percent of the work is done. The workers are doing final touches to finally throw the multiplex open for the public, project manager Vishak S.G. told Moneycontrol.
He added that the cinema loving people will be able to watch movies on the silver screen with 2K picture resolution. “In one of the three auditoriums, we are using a 3D projector. We have also used Dolby 7.1 Atmos for audio technology,” Vikash said.
All three auditoriums are fire-proof and for seating arrangement, the recliner seats and normal chairs have been adjusted.
“We have designed the multiplex with a local touch. For example, the Kashmiri culture is being promoted through papier-mâché and khatamband work crafted in the auditoriums. The local cuisine will also be promoted through food courts,” Vishak said.
Work on the multiplex started in early 2019. Currently the work is underway with 350 workers working in full swing to throw the multiplex open for people in the first week of September.
With the rise of militancy in 1990, cinema halls became the first target of militants. Militants repeatedly threatened the owners of cinema halls, who were forced to shut down all the theatres in the Valley including Regal Cinema, Palladium, Khayam, Firdous, Shah cinema, Neelam, Shiraz and Broadway.
In 1999, under the then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, cinemas like Neelam, Regal and Broadway reopened, but militants lobbed grenades, forcing the owners to close the cinemas one after another.
Nearly all the theatre buildings were later occupied by the security forces, who converted them into makeshift headquarters.
However, following the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, the Jammu and Kashmir government in the union territory took several steps to rejuvenate the cinema culture in Kashmir.
For example, in August 2021, the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha unveiled a new film policy in the presence of Bollywood actor Aamir Khan and film director Rajkumar Hirani. The policy laid emphasis on the restoration of cinema halls in Kashmir. The government is planning to set up 50 cinema halls in J&K besides strengthening the bond between Kashmir and the Indian film industry. The government is also urging filmmakers to shoot their movies in Kashmir much like before.Throughout 1970 and 1980, Kashmir was the favourite destination of filmmakers. Films like Raj Kapoor's Barsaat (1949), Kashmir Ki Kali (1964), Aarzoo (1965), Mere Sanam (1965), Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965), Himalaya Ki God Mein (1965), Janwar (1965) and Roti (1974) made the Valley a popular destination, with films etching breathtaking scenes of Kashmir.