Kashmir To Miss Out Haider That Was Filmed In The Valley

1 August 2014
DNA
Ishfaq-ul-Hassan

Srinagar: When nation would be watching Haider, Kashmir will be missing out the Bollywood adaptation of the Shakespeare's Hamlet given that no cinema is functional in the restive Valley. Of Kashmir but not for Kashmir? Vishal Bhardwaj's much-hyped Haider will not be released in Kashmir. Thanks to the militants who forced the closure of the cinema halls at the onset of militancy in 1989. Haider was completely shot and set in Kashmir. But the irony is that Kashmir will not have the luxury to watch the movie in the theaters like other countrymen. Why are the cinemas shut? Allah Tigers, now a defunct militant outfit, had embarked on moral policing bandwagon in 1989. Led by self-styled 'Air Marshal' Noor Khan, the militants had banned cinema halls and sale and consumption of liquor in 1989 when militancy started in Kashmir. The outfit had even ransacked and looted liquor shops and threatened to set ablaze cinema halls prompting them to shut instantly. How many cinemas were functional before? There were eight single screen cinemas in Srinagar. Of which four were in sensitive old city which had become the citadel of separatist movement. In 1999 Farooq Abdullah-led government tried to reopen Regal cinema in Srinagar. But on the inaugural show, militants attacked the cinema with grenades killing one people and injuring 12 others. Earlier two cinema halls -Neelam and Broadway-tried to reopen amid tight security but were not able to attract much of the cine-goers owing to security reasons. As a result Broadway located at Batwara-Indira Nagar, neighbouring Army's 15 Corps headquarters, closed some months later. Neelam Cinema crutched along but finally closed down in 2010. Cine-goers had a narrow escape when militants attacked the hall on September 7, 2005 resulting in the death of two militants and a policeman. Was there any other attempt to reopen cinemas? Farooq Abdullah had called for reopening the cinemas and liquor shops halls in 2011. But it invited the wrath of Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani who called on Muslim clergy to issue fatwa against Farooq. Later J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah defused the crisis by claiming that the government was not in a business to either reopen or subsidize the cinema halls. What has happened to the cinema halls in Kashmir? All the cinema halls have been shut. Some are housing paramilitary force camps, some have been converted into hospitals, some are being rebuilt as shopping malls. Some of the halls have been burnt and only their four damaged walls stand tall. 'Our forces are stationed in Shiraz cinema. We have vacated Shah Cinema,' said Kishore Prasad, CRPF spokesman. What is the other popular mode of entertainment in the Valley? Kashmir is entertainment-starved. No night life, no discos, no pubs, no multiplexes et al. Most of the Kashmir's Gen X has seen cinemas in the movies that too from the pirated DVDs and CDs available on the roadside pavements. Only the affluent Kashmir who could afford to travel outside Kashmir takes kids to cinemas to show them how a movie theatre looks like. Television is the biggest mode of entertainment in the Valley. The internet is also making its presence felt as people watch the movies online also. Aren't the militants opposed to shooting of Bollywood films? Militancy in the Valley itself is the biggest turn off for the filmmakers. The cast and crew needs peaceful environment. Given the militants, the filmmakers are hesitant to shoot here. Hurriyat hawks led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, however, accused the filmmakers of stereotyping Kashmiris and projecting negative image of the Valley. Which are the prominent Bollywood movies that were filmed in the valley in the recent past? The government has been successful in providing security cover to the filmmakers which has helped to instil confidence among some of them to shoot in the valley. From Saif Ali Khan starrer Phantom to Tiger Shroff starrer Heropanthi to Vishal Bhardwaj's Haider, Kashmir has been the new address for bollywood this season. More than five Bollywood films including Ranbir Kapoor starrer Rockstar, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, Shah Rukh Khan starrer Jab Tak Hain Jaan were shot in Kashmir in the last two years. Earlier Sanjay Dutt starrer Mission Kashmir and Aamir Khan starrer Mann too was shot in Kashmir.