The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mufti sings security tune to woo filmdom

Mumbai, Jan. 21: It’s Mission Bollywood for Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

If the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister has his way, the Indian filmgoer may have the hero and heroine back in a shikara, rather than in a gondola. For Mufti, on a three-day visit here, is out to woo the film community back to Kashmir.

Tonight he is hosting a private dinner for film producers at The Club, a plush clubhouse in suburban Andheri. The chief minister wants to meet the producers on a one-to-one basis, away from the prying eyes of the press.

Around 200 people have been invited to the dinner, a Jammu and Kashmir tourism official said. It will be attended by big-time producers Yash Chopra and Subhas Ghai. Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association, headed by Smita Thackeray, and Association of Motion Pictures and TV Programmes Producers, headed by Pehlaj Nihalni, will also send its members to the dinner.

On offer will be promises on security and an attempt to airbrush Kashmir’s image as a state destroyed by terrorism. “We don’t know what the chief minister has in mind, but a guarantee of security should be topmost on the agenda,” says a spokesperson from Raja Rani Travels, an agency that still operates tours in Kashmir and is coordinating Mufti’s visit. “But he is also likely to speak about the fact that Kashmir is not as unsafe as it looks. After 9/11, which place is safe on earth'”

Asked about militancy in the Valley, Mufti said at a news conference today: “The situation is not that bad. Militant activities are there even in Delhi.” He left abruptly after being informed that Maharashtra chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has given him an appointment.

Mufti’s proposal has been greeted with interest by the film industry. Chopra, who used the Valley extensively as a backdrop before shootouts stopped the shooting of films there, says: “Let’s hear what the chief minister has to say. If it works out, then why shouldn’t the shooting of films start'”

He says the film community would expect foolproof security. “We will ask for Z-plus security,” said Chopra. “If that happens, then shooting of films just may begin again in the Valley.”

It will work out much cheaper for the industry, too. In the absence of Pahalgam and Dal Lake, Hindi film producers had to resort to the snow-laden slopes of the Swiss Alps or Australia or New Zealand for the mandatory romantic song sequence.

Says filmmaker Kundan Shah: “Why should the chief minister make such promises if he doesn’t have the assurance that there will be no trouble'”

Apart from Bollywood, Mufti has been targeting two other sectors: industry and travel and tourism. He met investors from India and abroad yesterday. This morning, he met representatives of the tourism industry who presented him with a set of suggestions to promote Kashmir as a traveller’s paradise again. It touches on topics like railway and airline connectivity, electricity shortage in Kashmir and lack of tourist police.

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