Celluloid Kashmir

“The mist that drifts away at dawn, leaving but dew in the fields, shall rise again and gather into a cloud and then fall down in rain.”

-The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

When asked what an average Indian is raised on, we have a stock, even if somewhat staccato reply: rice, family relations, countless traditions, morality and Bollywood. That’s right. Bollywood today has morphed from an entity into a phenomenon and it is through this phenomenon that your average Indian hopes in the possibility of travelling from shadows to the stars.

Bollywood, or any film industry for that matter, is a stellar expression of creativity, which holds the power to make the viewer rise and fall along with the tide that the plot fashions. So, the creative team often faces the dilemma of picking the right location and the right shooting spot, and for decades together, the Indian film industry has always had a go-to destination: Kashmir. The mammoth popularity of Kashmir in this arena has, undeniably, to do with the protean nature of the Valley – from ruggedly hilly terrains to towering peaks glistening with pearly snow to gardens manicured to perfection, Kashmir harbors it all. And the fact that Kashmir has been host to almost 40 projects of Bollywood, an intimate part of the Indian household, only consolidates the Valley’s status as the ‘crown’ of the Indian Subcontinent.

History tells us that Rome fell, and screams that it fell for good. The scenario in Kashmir thus forth tells us that Kashmir’s liaison with Bollywood has fallen, and screams that it isn’t irrevocable. The chain reaction of shooting Hindi movies in the picturesque and pristine landscape of Kashmir was sparked with Junglee (1961) and Kashmir Ki Kali (1964). Subsequently, the industry brought forth one blockbuster after another in the backdrop of Kashmir and it seemed as though there was no going back, the union only heightening by the years – until it all came to a standstill. There has been a haunting hiatus in the exploration of Kashmir for movies and cinema, and there are only intrinsic factors to blame – political volatility, over-sensitization of the youth and the huff of uncertainty and fear in the air about the ground situation here, courtesy the media and its fragmented and skewed coverage. Alas, these fault-lines between the Valley and Bollywood have brought nothing but dismay, both to creative artists as well as connoisseurs of art in the Valley.

Yet, every cloud has a silver lining, and the duo of the Valley and the Hindi cinema seems to have found its lining in the recent series of events: the prominent faces of Bollywood have managed to rekindle the flame that once burned bright, warming all within its radius – a series of films are being shot, and a couple are scheduled to be shot, in the Valley, significant amongst them being Race (starring Salman Khan and Jacqueline Fernandes) and Manmarziyan (featuring Abhishek Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu). Clearly, a few brazen stars have graced the dim sky of Kashmir with their spectacular light, promising a fruitful bustle. While we just stand here and speculate, actors have been vocal about the magic the Valley wields around every artist, binding them to it in a blissful communion of passion and creativity. To quote Abhishek Bachchan himself, “It is nostalgic for me because I have come here when my father used to shoot his films here. It is truly a heaven on earth and I am very happy to be back. It is still as beautiful as it used to be.” Indeed, the revival of this glorious trend has warmed the hearts of actors and locals alike.

The aesthetic approach to pointing the cameras of Bollywood Kashmir-ward aside, there is a myriad of socio-economic benefits that this illustrious phenomenon brings, the first one being a significant push to the tourism sector. The mere presence of a cinema set-up in the state will nothing but send out signals that it is not perilous for tourists to inrush, like they once in our almost lost history used to. Moreover, the Kashmiri sense of hospitality, that according to me remains unmatched throughout the country, will have an outlet and a chance at recognition and appreciation. Further, the presence of multi-cultural and diverse members of the crew of a cinematic production will be instrumental in lending perspectives to the local Kashmiri, allowing them to step out of their cocoon and grasp a panoptic view of what is happening pan-India. These are but a few beads of the vibrant necklace that can weaved out of our homeland once this nonpareil trend is pushed further on.

Just as a moth is drawn to a flame, the Valley and Bollywood are incapable of mutual exclusiveness, so let’s all up the ante and be party to this opportune union between long lost lovers, for via the interplay of natural forces, they are bound to meet. And this time, let’s cross our fingers for this fusion to be eternal, so the Valley is restored to its vigor and glory of the yesteryears.