Filmmakers have always been enamoured of Kashmir despite the tensions in the Valley.
But now with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation on Thursday, urging the industry to invest in films and cinema halls in Kashmir, more people will likely turn to the region that once was Bollywood’s most sought-after locations.
In his address, Modi talked about Kashmir’s potential to become the prime film shooting location not only for home-grown productions but also for international ventures.
“Kashmir can be as inclusive as the other states are. That there is growth and development of the state, this is the prime reason why PM Modi urged the film industry to come to Kashmir for film shooting so that jobs are created, the economy revives and terrorist activities take a backseat,” film and trade business analyst Girish Johar told Moneycontrol.
“Once the situation normalises filmmakers will start toying the idea of going there. Filmmakers were going there earlier too, but now with PM pushing for it, they will expect that shooting in the Valley will become easier,” Johar said.
Exhibitors line up
Apart from turning into a popular film location, the Valley is attracting exhibitors as well, since the Parliament approved a resolution abrogating the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution.
Johar said Carnival chain of cinemas on August 7 announced opening up of 30 screens in Jammu and Kashmir, and five in Ladakh.
While there is no dearth of movie lovers in the strife-torn Valley, there are too few cinema-halls to meet the demand of movie-goers.
“There are (just) a handful of cinemas in Kashmir,” Johar said.
According to a report, as many as 15 theatres in Kashmir that were operational in the 90s shut shop due to the militancy.
With the support of the National Conference-led government, three cinema halls reopened in the Valley in 1996 — Regal, Neelam and Broadway.
However, three years later Regal cinema was attacked by the militants, and pulled down the shutters once again.
The lack of screens is also one big reason for people watching pirated content in the Valley. But the scenario could change with more focus on reviving tourism and the movie business in Kashmir.
In 2015, a single-window clearance system was set up for shooting movies; it grants a producer permission to shoot in the Valley within seven days of application.
As many as 15 movies and advertisements were shot in Kashmir over the past two years, according to a report.
John Abraham’s latest venture RAW— Romeo Akbar Walter — was shot in Kashmir.
In 2018, three movies were shot in Kashmir - Race 3, Manmarziyan and Jalebi. This year has Hamid, Notebook and No Fathers in Kashmir.
Currently, movies like Sadak 2, starring Alia Bhatt, and Sidharth Malhotra’s Shershaah, which is based on the life of Captain Vikram Batra, who lost his life during the Kargil War in 1999, have chosen Kashmir as the shooting locale. A couple of more Hindi movies are booked to shoot in Kashmir.
But the interest amid filmmakers to shoot in Kashmir goes beyond Bollywood.
Johar pointed out that Telugu star Mahesh Babu and his team went to Kashmir for his new offering Sarileru Neekevvaru, which will hit theatres next year.
While shoots have been delayed due to the political turmoil in Kashmir, the filmmakers have not shelved the idea and will rework their schedules as the situation normalises, he said.
Boost for tourism
In an earlier interview to Moneycontrol, Asif Iqbal Burza, MD, AHAD Hotels and Resorts, had said that Bollywood is one of the biggest tourism boosters in the Valley.
Johar concurs. "Tourism is the backbone businesses of Kashmir. Kashmir is heaven on earth, and when films are shot over there and people watch it on the big screen, it does attract a lot of people (to the state)."
Burza had also said that over the years, innumerable Bollywood movies have been shot in Kashmir, and helped tourism by showcasing the Valley's simplistic and ethereal beauty.
"Imagine crores of rupees that are spent on making advertising films... in the same way Bollywood films have done a huge service for Kashmir tourism," he had said.