Srinagar cinemas may reopen

21st August 1997

SRINAGAR: Cinema theatres are all set to re-open in Srinagar, the city of 800,000 entertainment-starved residents.

The first cinema theatre may reopen in the next couple of months. Its owner is currently engaged in repairing the building located in an outlying locality of the city. He is also arranging the necessary equipment to re-run the Bollywood and Hollywood movies.

Sources said that he has been encouraged in his efforts to rebuild and re-run the theatre by the Government which finds that the reopening of cinema theatres would be a milestone on the road to the restoration of normalcy.

The owner is being prompted to put the pieces together and restart the cinema theatre at the earliest as his theatre is located in a security zone, where there is less fear of bombing and grenade attacks. Such a move would encourage others to re-open.

"We are particularly eyeing the two cinema theatres in the security zone where frisking should not pose any problem", said a senior police official associated with the effort. "There will be a tremendous response, we are confident of that", the officer said with extraordinary confidence in his voice.

Brought up amidst the sounds of gunfire and grenade and rocket explosions, many children in Kashmir are alien to the cult of cinema theatres. For them Broadway and Palladium are the burnt buildings unaware that their parents and grandparents were there in all seasons watching Hindi and English movies. Regal theatre is a hidden building and Neelam and Shah cinemas are now the residences of the security forces.

Cinema theatres had become the first target of the fundamentalists who viewed pictures and theatres as vices imported from the West and alien to Islamic values which they claimed to be fighting fore. There were grenade attacks outside the cinema theatres and threats were given to the theatre owners and cinegoers. Defiance meant death. No one wanted to court death and the cinema theatres closed one by one obeying dictate of the militants.

The closure of cinema theatres was seen as a first victory by Islamic fundamentalists. The people swayed by the "call for freedom". that time had joined the chorus for the "Islamisation of Kashmir" and did not care much when the cinema theatres were shut, recalls Nasir Ahmed, resident of a downtown locality.

But the Kashmiris always eager to entertain themselves started organising private parties. The video cassette recorder and video cassettes became prize possessions and soon dishes beaming satellite channels appeared on the rooftops, signalling the assertion of the Kashmiris' right to view what they thought was good for them and their families. No one has dared to start a cable network for the fear still persists.

The VCRs and dishes were the possession of affluent homes. The commoners may no longer suffer from any inferiority complex as the cinema theatres are about to reopen.

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