The valley of Kashmir is known throughout the world for its magnificence and appeal. With its geographical advantage, all the prevalent seasons are breathtaking; the mountains seem to cut the landscape elegantly defining the contours of the gardens and the lakes. With Alpine mountains, glittering streams, scenic gardens, serene lakes, gushing rivers, historical monuments each one of them is like a precious gem decorated on the crown.
Cinema tends to be one of the most powerful art forms for not only conveying ideas but influencing the hearts and minds of the audience. Cinema captivates its audience. As films have this emotional impact, they have been used as propaganda tools for shaping public opinion. Film tourism is an excellent vehicle for destination marketing as it describes the effects that cinema can have on our travel decisions as they inspire people to experience the screened places first hand.
The Indian film industry has always found various ways of portraying Kashmir through their movies. Mesmerizing Kashmir valley and its nature in the movies as a breath-taking backdrop, Bollywood movies have a huge scope of providing an appropriate space for showcasing rich culture and heritage of Kashmir. There is a huge untapped potential for related activities in the film and television industry. Through films like ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’, ‘Jab Jab Phool Khile’, ‘Himalaya Ki God Mein’, and ‘Bobby’; Srinagar and Gulmarg came up as popular destinations with people marvelling at their scenic and pristine beauty further strengthening the tourism sector in the territory by supporting the generation of higher revenues.
Unfortunately, the majority of the media houses and film industry showcases the valley as disturbed region post 90’s uprising, badly affecting its image at the global level. Various initiatives have been undertaken by the previous governments to bring back the past glory of the J&K especially the Kashmir valley when the tourist footfall was at its peak in the 70's and 80’s. Recent JK Film Policy 2021 visualizes redefining the potential of JK of being one of the best locations for the film industry. This will certainly boost the tourism sector in particular and the employability status in general.
Tourism has been and will be the backbone of J&K economy. Any disturbance to this sector will reflect its ramifications in allied sectors also and ultimately the whole economic setup of the state. Be it the unrest or the current pandemic, this important sector has been hit hard and it is only this sector through which the overall growth and peace of the region is gauged. As the pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s life, in the case of travel and tourism it has raised serious questions about the future of this sector. Current pandemic has affected the world economy and Kashmir is no exception. The rapidly evolving pandemic has further confronted the sensitive Tourism industry with unprecedented circumstances. With the upsurge in cases, the valley experienced a speedy decline in tourist arrivals including documented travel restrictions resulting in the deserted and isolated tourist spots in the region.
Through the film industry, along with employment generation, the dissemination of glimpses related to the art, culture, history, heritage, livelihood and glorious traditions of the region, will lend a hand in attracting additional capital investment in Jammu & Kashmir. Movies provide insights into the most incredible, amazing and beautiful places in Jammu & Kashmir and therefore means to attract tourists. Thus, recently launched film policy 2021 envisions making the best possible efforts towards achieving the creation of a vibrant film ecosystem in Jammu & Kashmir. The Government of Jammu & Kashmir is looking to detect, catalogue and advance promising potential shooting locations that have cinematic appeal. These locations will be developed in coordination with the Tourism Department and private investors. The film policy has been seen with huge expectations along with the potential to bring richness and growth to Kashmir. With this Film Policy, various misleading concepts and opinions regarding the valley shall disappear. Therefore, along with various probable economic benefits it will further strengthen the culture of Kashmir and hence, support its leading feature of Tourism industry.
Kashmir is still to reap the benefits of its socio-cultural resources and that's what the Film Policy objects for; to tap the abundant blessing of a viable film ecosystem. The policy needs collaborative and dedicated investments by tourism hubs. Along with the prime pertinent of the policy goal, synchronisation among different participating agencies is important for the success of the plan envisioned in the policy.
So, for the realisation of the policy in the valley along with the government initiative the various stakeholders need to join hands together for the balance and prosperity in the economy. The socio-cultural worth acquired through this initiative will potentially extract the evident economic gains. The profits are further extended to the sustenance and development of struggling tourism in the region. With this policy, it is expected to aid in bringing recovery & growth to the Tourism Industry by adding value to it. The policy initiative taken by the efforts of various policymakers and government provides recognition of cultural expansionism, richness of the local competency by fostering tourism expansionism in the territory. It will be interesting to see how the film Industry under the initiative of JK Film Policy 2021, is going to help recreate Kashmir as a welcoming destination despite past issues. It aspires to mark its impression on Kashmir and its global image.
NADEEM QAYOOM is an Associate member of ASCE- India International Section.
SHRISTI GUPTA is presently the Coordinator of Reach- The Equal Opportunity Cell of LSR.