In a bid to dispel "negative perception" about Kashmir in the wake of devastating floods last year, the state government has launched a rigorous campaign including facilitating shootings and promoting upcoming Bollywood movies here—to woo tourists.
On Saturday, the crew of upcoming Bollywood movie 'Welcome 2 Karachi' launched its promotional campaign from the sprawling lawns of the Government Guest House, Hari Niwas at fortified Gupkar area here.
The movie crew including its lead stars— Jacky Bhagnani and Lauren Gotlieb besides producer Vashu Bhagnani promoted the film during a joint press conference with the Commissioner Secretary Tourism, Shailendra Kumar. However, lead star Arshad Warsi could not make it to the event.
"It is a privilege for me to launch the promotional campaign of my film from Kashmir," Bhagnani said.
However, he maintained that selecting Kashmir for the event has no connection with prevailing political situation in the Valley. "This is a sheer satirical film. Karachi just signifies a place around which the film revolves. Tomorrow, I can make Welcome to Beijing or Rio," he said.
Recently, Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had urged Bollywood to help in promotion of Kashmir to attract tourists. "In the wake of Mufti Sahib's appeal, I thought it would be best to launch promotion of my film from this beautiful Kashmir," Bhagnani said.
The plot of 'Welcome 2 Karachi'—scheduled to released on May 28, revolves around two Indian men who enter Karachi in Pakistan without their passports and the adventure pursues as they get trapped by the Taliban— in their quest to find a way back to India.
On a query that cinemas in Kashmir are not operational, Bhagnani said "presently, we are looking at four theatres…. we will discuss modalities with the state government for exploring possibilities to tie up with renowned multiplex chains for their operation. But it is the state government which has to take the initiative."
Bhagnani said he would love to shoot his future ventures in Kashmir. "Every inch of Kashmir be it mountains, landscapes or lakes are mesmerizing. I hope to shoot a film here in coming years," Bhagnani said.
He has produced several popular movies including Coolie No. 1,Hero No. 1, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai and Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein.
Commissioner Secretary Tourism, Shailendra Kumar such events help in "perception management" about Kashmir.
"Devastating flood and some law and order incidents have created negative image about Kashmir. We believe with increasing number of shooting of Bollywood movies in Kashmir will help in perception management about this place. This event will really help in removing negative perception about Kashmir and this will boost up tourist arrivals," he said.
Kumar said that government has created a single window system for shooting clearances in Kashmir. He clarified that government was not providing any incentives to the movie producers for shooting in the state. "We are only facilitating smooth conduct of shootings," he said.
He said the shooting of Salman Khan starrer Bajrangi Bhaijaan has resumed from Sonamarg. The film completed its first leg of shooting in famous health resort of Pahalgam.
On the occasion, lead female star of the film, Lauren Gotlieb a dancer and actor from Scottsdale, Arizona, United States said "I am mesmerized by snowcapped mountains in Kashmir." Her co-star Jacky Bhagnani said "Kashmir is 10 times beautiful than I had imagined. We want to engage with people, especially youth. I hope that cinemas will reopen and open a new window of entertainment and employment here," he said.
"In the movie, Arshad Warsi and me leave on a boat from Gujarat to party, but the boat drowns. After swimming, we reach coast thinking it is some area of India, but to our shock it turns out to be Karachi in Pakistan. In Karachi, we are confronted by Taliban and this creates humorous situations," said Jacky Bhagnani who has played lead role in various movies including Rangrezz and "Youngistaan.