Reviving J&K as preferred destination for film shootings

Reviving J&K as preferred destination for film shootings
GK Photo

Officials at the films unit of Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) are busy sorting papers for an upcoming and first ever Jammu and Kashmir Film Festival, scheduled to be held in Srinagar later this month.

A unit, which remained non-functional, with not many officials taking interest in films and filmmaking, is suddenly witnessing an unprecedented rush of film production houses and music directors.

The 1st National Film Festival of Jammu & Kashmir (NFFJK) is the first ever film festival of a grand scale to be organised by the Government of Jammu & Kashmir in Srinagar from June 15-20,2022. Some say, it may be postponed aiming at the current security scenario.

According to officials, the idea behind this film festival is to highlight the film, music and creative ecosystem in J&K, along with its’ natural and socio-cultural beauty that Jammu and Kashmir has been blessed with, to the world.

“The Film festival will be a congregation of the best of films and music, film-makers, music artists, other allied talent and serve as a reservoir of creativity and inspiration for anyone across the world who aspire to live, love and breathe films and music,” say officials.

‘Single Window Clearance’

According to officials, there has been a tremendous response from the film production houses across India. The officials say that around 130 permissions have been given to various producers and production banners for carrying out their creative operations. The officials informed that over 130 permissions have gone to Reliance, South film production houses, Amir Khan production among several other OTT platforms.

Notably, the government has notified permission for movies under Jammu and Kashmir Public Services Guarantee Act, 2011. In this regard an order issued by Principal Secretary to the Government, General Administration Department, Manoj Kumar Dwivedi, reads that in exercise of the powers conferred by section 4, 30 days (Including 15 days for NOC from DC, Home, Culture and Forest Departments) have been set while as Film Production Officer has been nominated as a designated officer and Joint Director, DIPR (hqr) and Director Information as First and Second appellate authority, subsequently.

Principal Secretary to Governor, Nitishwar Kumar, who himself has penned many acclaimed songs with top-notch artists of India, says that the government of Jammu & Kashmir was aiming to make the best possible efforts towards creation of a vibrant film ecosystem in the Union Territory. He said several initiatives have been taken to create a suitable environment and promotion of film production in Jammu & Kashmir. “Renovation and up-gradation of the existing infrastructure is on cards, while as administrative assistance to ease film making in the Jammu & Kashmir by setting up Single Window Cell to grant permission for shooting films, preferably within 2 to 4 weeks has given a new lease of life to the filmmaking process in J&K.”

Pertinently, the government has established a “full proof” mechanism for the filmmakers to provide them an attractive package of assistance, besides schemes, systems of financial support required in the appropriate cases.

According to officials, the Jammu and Kashmir Film Policy has set the vision up till 2026, with the aim of maximizing the potential of both the Jammu & Kashmir film servicing industry as well as the promising local film sector. “This policy will serve to transform Jammu & Kashmir into a unique film destination,” says Kumar.

Film Production Officer, DIPR, Afaq Gadda, told Kashmir Ink, that cinema has emerged as a powerful medium of socio-cultural transformation in India. Being an entertainment industry, it has not only left a memorable mark on people's social behaviour but also assumed the form of an important economic activity. He said that the cinema has also played a major role in promoting tourism by familiarizing the viewers with a large number of scenic and culturally rich locations.

“Without any doubt, films have been of great help in projecting the image of contemporary India not only within but also outside the country,” Gadda says. “The global impact of cinema is increasing day by day and therefore the Government of India has decided to accord the status of an industry to films. The film industry is an important vehicle for social, cultural and economic development.”

Thus, a well-nurtured film industry can be a major source of wealth creation, employment generation and effective tool and platform for preservation of culture and expression of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The industry can promote Jammu & Kashmir's potential as an investment and tourist destination even as it acts as a powerful tool for the dissemination of its culture. With a view to formulate a holistic Film Policy, the Department of Information and PR, J&K held widespread consultations with the stakeholders of the film.

‘Film Development Fund’

The officials say that the creation of the Film Development Fund (FDF) in the Information department in the fiscal year 2022-23, would boost the film sector. This they say would be for disbursement of subsidies envisaged in the J&K Film Policy 2021. The officials revealed that as part of an effective implementation of this highly ambitious policy, the government would allocate Rs 500 Cr to be payable in the next five years, for financially supporting the development of a vibrant film ecosystem in Jammu & Kashmir. This policy would be valid for 5 years from the date of notification. “We received funds worth Rs 100 Cr for promotion of cinema in the appropriate head of account in the Demand of Grant of the Culture department,” a senior official confirmed.

J&K Film Development Council (JKFDC) will be the single point of contact for supporting the development of this ecosystem and will exclusively oversee the implementation of this policy.

‘Jammu & Kashmir Film Development Council’

The Film Policy spelled out that in order to realise the objectives of J&K Film Policy, a Jammu & Kashmir Film Development Council (JKFDC) shall be constituted. Jammu & Kashmir Film Development Council shall be a separate vertical and act as a distinct agency to achieve the objectives of the Film Policy. Officials say that the J&K Film Development Council would be a High-Powered Committee headed by a senior officer of the rank of Principal Secretary to the Government and shall comprise, besides other senior officers, eminent personalities of Film industry and others related to the industry

‘Annual Incentives’

The Film sector has been accorded the status of Industry in Jammu & Kashmir and the officials shared that subsidy for shooting the first film has been also notified. Up to Rs. 1 Cr or 25% of the total cost of production (COP), whichever is lower and minimum 50% of total shooting days shot in Jammu and Kashmir. While as Up to Rs. 1.50 Cr or 25% of the total Cost of Production (COP), whichever is lower for which minimum 75% of total shooting days shot should be held in Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequently, for shooting the second film, Up to Rs. 1.25 Cr or 25% of the total Cost of Production would be provided as subsidy to the filmmaker

‘Bollywood stages comeback’

“I’ve been on an exciting journey for the last few months thanks to the visionary changing scenario with regard to the filmmaking,” noted Bollywood producer, Shabir Boxwalla, says. “Although things are more or less peaceful now, the conflict has affected our generation in less direct ways, such as mental health problems, drink and drug problems and economic struggles.” He says.

‘Locals Left Out’

Noted actor and filmmaker, Ayash Arif, while lashing out at the government, says that there was major “disconnect” of the local industry and stakeholders at a time when the policy was being formed.

“We aren’t against the Film Policy. It is something for which we should appreciate the government but at the same time policy should be helping and empowering the local stakeholders too,” he opined. “I am told that there is going to be a fund lapse of the subsidy amount they have kept for the filmmakers and the production houses as not many have approached them. Local artists and producers, directors and filmmakers have been left out. I fail to understand why,” he says.

He along with other filmmakers demanded an establishment of NFDC like council in Jammu and Kashmir. “We should have the Regional Film Financial Corporation (RFFC) which is always there to support the regional cinema. It is because of them; we can have financial support and financial agency established in our area. This will surely boost the local cinema and there will be a lot of connection with the other states and the regions,” he says.

Another young Jammu based filmmaker, Tariq Khan, who is currently attending Cannes Film Festival while sharing his thoughts on the policy and the current scenario of films in Jammu and Kashmir, says “Our cinema is to be established and then to be boosted not only nationally, but globally.”

Khan says Bollywood has a history of selling “Kashmir” in films. “We aren’t against filmmakers for coming to Kashmir and making films. We want our cinema to reach global platforms’.”

Khan, while launching the poster of ‘Country of Blind’ at Cannes, told Kashmir Ink that regional cinema is to be boosted at the places like Cannes, Asian Film Festival, London Film Fraternity etc. “We have internationally acclaimed actors and technicians. They can take ahead this mission of telling their story in Kashmiri, Dogri, Gojri, Pahari.”

As the poster of the Hina Khan-starrer ‘Country of Blind’ is unveiled at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival, the director of the film Rahat Kazmi expressed his excitement and the hard process he went through to put together the film.

Talking about being at the Cannes Film Festival, Tariq Khan says, “It’s every filmmaker’s dream to launch his dream project at the Cannes film festival. This film was in my mind since childhood, throughout my struggling days. I used to think about making this film ‘Country Of Blind’. The subject of the film is very difficult and it took me a while to finish this project.”

Famous comedian, Nazir Josh aka Ahad Razze, says that by noticing the condition of veteran artists in Kashmir, one understands the situation of the industry. He says that there was no scope for them unless the government takes some concrete steps for the setting up of the local film industry.

"We have highly talented professionals in Kashmir, the government can avail their services for setting up the regional film industry or finance them for the making movies on Kashmir in Kashmiri language," he says.

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