Mufti Appeal Works, Bollywood Back After Three Yrs
2 April 2003
The Indian Express
Srinagar: After a three-year lull, Bollywood has returned to the Valley. For the past five days, newcomer Richa Pahlad and Jimmy Shergill have been shooting for their movie, Agnipankh, around the Dal Lake and Gulmarg. Pahlad blushes as a huge crowd gathers to cheer her on the boulevard running adjacent to the lake. CRPF and police personnel have to occasionally push back the people trying to get close to the stars. Pahlad and Shergill have now been joined by another starlet known more for her item numbers in films, Shamita Shetty. Wittingly or unwittingly, director Sanjeev Puri has become the first to heed J-K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's invitation to shoot films in the Valley to shore up the ailing tourism sector. Only five-six films, including two in Telegu, have been shot in Kashmir since insurgency hit the state 14 years ago. Only last month, Mufti had personally visited Mumbai to urge Bollywood to return to the Valley. The CM had assured leading directors and producers of security to their crew and special facilities like use of the state chopper at a nominal price. Puri, who says the crew would be in town for another week before pack-up, 'is very enthused to shoot here because the Valley landscape is breathtaking'. Shergill is shooting his second film here, and says he 'finds the Valley fresher every time I make it here'. Essentially a love story, Agnipankh also highlights the role of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in protecting the country's frontiers. The crew is expected to shoot IAF hangars and has got permission from Prime Minister's Office for this, tourism sources said. Once a favourite of Bollywood because of its natural beauty, Kashmir has been avoided by film-makers ever since the surge of militancy. In the '90s, except for a few films like Pukar, in which former CM Farooq Abdullah played clapper boy, Mission Kashmir, Mann and Mere Apne, no Hindi film was shot here. However, tourism sources believe the drought may end soon as two more films are slotted to be shot in Ladakh and Kashmir later this year. This apart, many prominent television companies are planning to make soaps and documentaries in Kashmir. Already, BAG Films, a Mumbai-based leading TV software company, is shooting a serial here.