A hope for revival

The film screenings are done at Tagore Hall in Srinagar, a popular auditorium known for holding the cultural activities
A hope for revival
"For the last two years, the festival couldn’t be organized first due to abrogation of Article 370 and then coronavirus lockdown but now the work has commenced for the next edition."Author

Visit Kashmir in spring next year, you can witness a Bollywood film on a 70 mm screen and it will give a feel that cinemas have reopened in the valley, an aim of the team behind Kashmir World Film Festival (KWFF).

KWFF is an initiative of few young artists in Kashmir and is the only film festival that takes place bi-annually in the theaterless valley for seven days. For the last two years, the festival couldn’t be organized first due to abrogation of Article 370 and then coronavirus lockdown but now the work has commenced for the next edition.

“We have started receiving film entries from across the globe. Hopefully we will organize its 5th Edition in the second week of May,” said founder and festival director Mushtaaque Ali Ahmad Khan.

Khan said that they are excited to do a comeback after a gap of two years. “We couldn’t organize the festival due to the circumstances that had surrounded us but now we are back to entertain the Kashmiri people who have been stressed in these years,” he said.

When asked the aim of organizing this film festival, he said, “We want to bring world class cinema to Kashmir and people should not restrict themselves to phones only but come to watch the films on a big screen,” he said.

Notably, there were a total of 15 functional cinema halls in the valley in the 1980s, of which nine were in Srinagar. The most famous cinemas were Broadway Cinema, Regal Cinema, Neelam Cinema, and Palladium Cinema in Srinagar.

Now, most of the theatres have turned into camps for security forces, while others have been turned into hotels, shopping complexes and even a hospital.

The film screenings are done at Tagore Hall in Srinagar, a popular auditorium known for holding the cultural activities. The earlier two editions were held in 2017 and 2018. The festival is being supported by Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), National Film Archives of India (NFAI) Pune, J&K Tourism and a few corporate houses.

The film festival has screened films from countries like the USA, Italy, Spain, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, and Afghanistan. They get the films from different parts of India in different languages like Kashmiri, Bengali, Malayalam, Bhojpuri, Dogri, Ladakhi, Urdu, Hindi and English.

Bringing some grace to the festival, a bevy of Bollywood celebrities have visited this festival. Those who visited include Tabu, Madhur Bhandarkar, Rajit Kapur, Saeed Mirza, Govind Nihalani, Arunaraje Patil, Anjum Rajabali, Rahul Mitra, Vani Tripathi, Raj Bhansal, Saahil Saple, Ashok Kaul and others.

“On the sidelines of screenings, workshops are held for the aspiring directors, actors, scriptwriters and cinematographers by these film celebrities in the first half of the day,” Khan said adding they want to provide a platform to them to showcase their work at International level.

Bollywood actor Rajit Kapoor who has attended all the editions believes that this festival is the only ray of hope for the revival of cinemas and theaters in militancy infested Kashmir. “They have been screening Bollywood films too and people, especially youth in a good number go and watch films there. The entire film Industry should support them,” he said.

Mir Sarwar, Bollywood actor of Kashmiri origin said that to organize a film festival at a place like Kashmir is a very ‘unique concept’. “Keeping the situation in mind, the organizers are doing wonderful work. This festival has always reminded me of the old days when cinemas were open in Kashmir,” he said.

Zameer Ashai, a Kashmiri actor recalls the good old days when he was able to watch his favourite movies in cinemas in Kashmir. “I remember it was 1977, when I watched the films like Mughal-E-Azam and Mera Saaya at Palladium Cinema, Srinagar. Watching films in theatre made me an actor because that was an actual platform from which I learnt every art of the acting,” he said.

Faisal Chaku, an executive member of the festival said in the past four editions they have screened over 200 films out of 600 entries. “We have screened the films like Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, Dangal, Indu Sarkar, Laila Majnu, Shri 420, Naya Daur, Jagtay Raho, Haldaa, The Fear of Silence, The Illusion Seller and others which jam-packed the hall. While promoting local cinema, the festival also screened over twelve Kashmiri films,” he said.

Hoping to revive the cinemas and make a culture of watching films in theatres, Khan said that the film Industry can only help him to take this initiative a long way. “I met actor Aamir Khan in August in Srinagar who promised all the help and ensured would attend the festival if he was not stuck up with the work. Other top actors like Manoj Bajpayee and Anubhav Sinha are also likely to attend the next edition,” Khan concluded.

However, Director Tourism Kashmir G N Itoo said that the department has always loved to support such initiatives.

The author is an Independent journalist based in Kashmir.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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