Valley back on silver screen - After years of militancy, Hindi films are being shot in Kashmir again

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By MUZAFFAR RAINA in Srinagar
  • Published 12.05.08
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Srinagar, May 12: Kashmir’s gardens and lakes have lured moviemakers back to the state after nearly two decades of militancy almost erased the Valley vistas from the silver screen.

Early this year, Santosh Sivan was in Srinagar to shoot Dastaan, starring Rahul Bose. After him came Raj Kanwar to shoot Sadiyaan, a story of love across the Indo-Pak border. The film will see the debut of Shatrughan Sinha’s son Luv and Fareena Wazir, who has roots in Kashmir.

Sudhir Mishra, the director of Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, is camping in Pahalgam to shoot Foot Soldier, a movie for children.

Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi will also be in Kashmir to make a documentary on the boatmen of Dal lake.

The lake and Srinagar’s gardens were familiar backdrops in films like Kashmir Ki Kali — several songs featuring Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore were shot in shikaras — and Junglee, another Shammi-starrer. However, it was his elder brother Raj Kapoor’s film Barsaat that made Kashmir a screen hit in 1949.

“Around half a dozen moviemakers from Bollywood and south India came to Kashmir this year. Five to six more producers are enquiring about locations,” the joint director in the state’s tourism department, Sarmad Hafiz, said.

Shatrughan finds the Valley as charming as ever. “Although I have come on some occasions over these years, I am here for my son this time. Kashmir has been and will remain the first option for the film industry. Only the turmoil (militancy) kept us away for some time,’’ said the actor-politician.

“The beautiful Valley brings back lovely memories of my association with Hema Malini, Rekha and other divas,” he said.

Nazir Bakshi, a pioneer of Kashmir’s tourism trade who facilitated the shooting of hundreds of films, is optimistic that times are changing. “Some top film producers are showing interest and I am personally in touch with three of them,” he said.

“There was a time when the king of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan, would spend some months every year here,” Bakshi said. “Many hit films of Dilip Kumar, Rajesh Kh anna, Shammi Kapoor and Joy Mukherjee were shot here. I still remember the shooting for Junglee, Kashmir Ki Kali, Silsila, Satte Pe Satta and Lawaris. Thousands would go to watch them,” he said.

But militancy forced Bollywood to look towards Switzerland and other locations in the late eighties. As the situation worsened, terrorism became a theme for films, while the Valley disappeared as a backdrop.

Some films on militancy, like Mani Ratnam’s Roja and Kunal Kohli’s Fanaa, were shot in places that resembled Kashmir.

There have been a few exceptions, though. Agnipankh (2004) and Yahaan the following year, and Pukaar and Mission Kashmir, shot in 2000, had shots of the Valley.

With the gradual improvement in the situation, the government has begun upgrading infrastructure. The frequency of flights is increasing and Srinagar is about to get an international airport.

But a lot more needs to be done. “We need to have better roads and hotels. The state government should also set up a film corporation here, which will monitor and develop the infrastructure required by Bollywood,” Shatrughan said.