Revisiting Bollywood Hungama

The beauty of the J&K’s film policy is that it is loaded with tailor-made support to the local artists
Revisiting Bollywood Hungama
File Pic : Jammu and Kashmir Information Department

Bollywood has always remained so near yet so far for Kashmir. Innumerable films have been shot here for ages. In fact, we can divide the romance of Bollywood with Kashmir into two eras, with 1990 demarcating the two periods. In the pre-1990 era, the Bollywood capitalized on the beauty of Kashmir and witnessed a mad race among the film makers for decades to capture the most fascinating natural charm of the valley and illuminate their films. During this course, almost all the films shot here enthralled the cinemagoers across the country and loaded the film makers with a lot of name, fame and wealth.

Post-1990 era Kashmir doesn’t need any elaboration as all of us experienced decades of unprecedented turmoil leading to heavy loss of life and property. In the initial years of the post-1990 era, the Bollywood turned a blind eye towards Kashmir and took route to alternative locations as a substitute to the beauty of the Valley. However, the industry players didn’t shy away to pick stories of miseries which local population was confronting amid armed clashes between the security forces and the militants. A Kashmir-based script with a flavor of patriotism became an obsession among the filmmakers in the Bollywood. Even South Indian film industry also got attracted to the turmoil in Kashmir and delivered numerous hit films with a pinch of patriotism in their screenplays.

The point of explaining romance of the Bollywood with Kashmir in both eras is to understand how the film makers leaned on the back of Kashmir to make profits for themselves and in return they made negligible, in fact no contribution to the socio-economic sphere of this ‘paradise on earth’. There may be a section that links the Bollywood’s connection with promotion of tourism, but I don’t think the films shot in Kashmir pulled people across the country to visit Kashmir. Yes, such films pulled huge crowds to the cinema halls.

Precisely, on the ground, the Bollywood has been enjoying free ride in the Valley of Kashmir to make millions, which otherwise should have not been allowed at the cost of the region’s resources. Ironically, the Bollywood redefined the concept of patriotism by using the post-1990 era of J&K which witnessed large scale turmoil almost for over two decades.

There was a time during this period when many filmmakers rushed for fuelling pseudo-patriotism among the masses while digging negativity out of the Kashmir situation through ‘patriotic’ plots. The filmmakers left no stone unturned to use the negativity in the film plot more to mint money rather than exhibiting their love for the country.

Nobody can afford to go against patriotism. But the way some of our filmmakers twisted the concept of patriotism into a filmy patriotism and infused this fever into the audience has raised many eyebrows. They have been precisely making blatant misuse of power of cinema and grossly misleading the gullible masses across the country through this filmy patriotism. If we look at the past, the theme of patriotism has been delved in Bollywood movies many a times. There were times when the movies typically screened the hero in love with his motherland and ready to die to save the honour of his country. ‘ Kranti’, ‘Purab Paschim’ , ‘Shaheed’ , ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’ etc were the films carrying a plot around truest form of patriotism reflecting a society emotional about its country and its rights.

In other words, the performance of Bollywood vis-a-vis destination Kashmir in the post-1990 era testifies their acts of flirting with the situation which had engulfed the J&K into a never-seen-before turmoil. A glance at some major films affirms that most of their films glorified the turmoil in Kashmir in bad taste; faked many incidents and many a times justified sufferings of the people. This on-screen faked situations which earned fortunes for the filmmakers (including actors) run for over two decades. Not only it dented the reputation of Kashmir as 'Paradise on the earth", but it also breed hatred against Kashmiris across the country. It would not be out of place to mention that the intolerance in the country has its base in some of Bollywood films which contained a plot having script revolving around terrorism and only terrorism, bringing disrepute to the brand Kashmir.

However, amid all this ‘Bollywood Hungama’ around Kashmir, there is a ray of hope that negativity about Kashmir in future Bollywood or any other film projects would be filtered and respectability to J&K and its people is restored unconditionally in film plots. In this regard, rolling out a film policy by the J&K administration can prove a shot in the arm to garner multiple benefits for the J&K region as partners of any future Bollywood/ film projects.

Notably, Jammu & Kashmir’s Film Policy-2021 was unveiled last week in Srinagar by the Jammu & Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha at a star-studded evening which witnessed the presence of Bollywood actor Aamir Khan and filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani, among others. At the launch, Lt Governor Manoj Sinha invited filmmakers from across the world to come to J&K & capture its pristine beauty through their lens. He revealed myriad of fiscal & non-fiscal incentives, world-class facilities offered by J&K government at the disposal of film makers.

The content of the film policy 2021 is a well thought-out document which will enhance the transformation of J&K into most preferred film shooting destination. At the same time it’s going to streamline and bring the entry of Bollywood and other filmmakers into the region through a formal channel.

Among other things in the policy, the subsidy component for shooting first, second and third film, for award-winning producer/director, TV shows, web series, original shows of OTT and documentary is most attractive part of the document. The beauty of the policy is that it is loaded with tailor-made support to the local artists of J&K. Here the filmmaker have been promised additional component of subsidy up to an amount of Rs.50 lakh if they tailor film projects to accommodate members from the local artist community.

The concept of setting up a film city in the region envisaged in the film policy document is not a bad idea. In mid-eighties, during our college days, an idea of establishing a film city somewhere in Pulwama was floating for a year or so. But it never saw practical shape.

Besides, framing a Jammu and Kashmir Film Development Council (JKFDC) to handle all aspects of film projects to be executed in the J&K region under one roof is definitely going to bring discipline in the sector. A formal system for such projects was a long pending initiative.

Precisely, with a film policy now in place, it’s opportune time to see an end to the Bollywood propaganda unleashed by some opportunist filmmakers against the brand Kashmir. It would be in the fitness of things if a rider is placed for the filmmakers that any negativity in the film about J&K and its people would attract legal action against the whole film crew. Let them understand that J&K, especially the Valley of Kashmir, is a place which is full of human interest stories, which are mostly untold. The JKFDC can play a vital role to attract film makers to capture these untold stories and at the same time keep close watch on the film projects to filter any negativity about the region and its inhabitants.

(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)

Greater Kashmir