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Kashmir charms lure film delegation
- Bollywood to revive valley magic

Srinagar, April 13: Amitabh Bachchan may not run again amid the flowers of the Kashmir Valley wooing his heroine, but Shah Rukh Khan might yet get a chance.

A 25-member Bollywood delegation, including six leading filmmakers, was in the Valley for two days from April 10, scouting for a chance to put Kashmir back on the silver screen.

The scenic Valley, a regular backdrop in mainstream Hindi films for years, had disappeared with the emergence of militancy in the early 1990s.

The team, including Yash Chopra, Ramesh Sippy, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Manmohan Shetty, Ashok Thakaria and Ramesh Taurani, met chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at the Dachigam sanctuary.

Mufti extended them a “warm invitation” to include Kashmir’s “breathtaking” locations on their shooting schedule again. He offered all support to the film industry for safe shooting and urged the team to lure more producers to the Valley.

Yash Chopra, emotional on his return to snowy, sunny Gulmarg — where he had shot many of his romantic films — said: “Kashmir is the ultimate destination for a filmmaker.”

“I recently returned from Switzerland and being here today, it gave me the feeling this place was natural and more beautiful.” Thrilled with his one- night stay at Gulmarg, he said: “I would be happy to use Kashmir’s fascinating locations for films.”

An encouraged housing and urban minister, Ghulam Hassam Mir, said: “Your visit is a step forward in the direction of tourism development in the state.”

Things have already started looking up for the Valley as the unit of Agni Pankh, an under-production film starring Jimmy Shergill, has been shooting here for the last one month.

“It is a beginning and, hopefully, others will follow,” state officials said, after the “eye-opening” visit. “While there is no denying that militancy is there, it does not mean life has come to a standstill. They (filmmakers) cannot ignore the fast-changing scenario where people are longing for peace.”

Chopra, too, said “things in Kashmir have improved”. “I came for the first time as a tourist in 1958 but my first visit as a filmmaker was in 1964. I have always found Kashmir an extremely beautiful place and would love to visit the Valley again to shoot my films.”

Bollywood’s latest heartthrob, Vivek Oberoi, said in Chandigarh he was waiting to go to the Valley. “It’s sad that when I have seen so many places around the world and in India, a visit to Kashmir still remains a dream. I would definitely like to go there and see for myself what they call paradise on earth,” he said.

However, Vivek emphasised that much “depends on what kind of security is provided to us”. “Let’s hope the situation in Kashmir improves and it once again becomes the favourite destination of filmmakers.”

For Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the visit was a homecoming as he has his roots in the Valley.

The delegation left, promising Bollywood would be back in Kashmir soon, shooting in choice locations. Officials of the state said they hoped Bollywood would not let them down.

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