Throwback to the happy times

Film shootings of 1980s in Kashmir matter more to the valley than just revisiting past
Films were shot in Kashmir, some of them iconic like “Kashmir ki Kali,” “Arzoo”, “ Kabhie-Kabhie and so on.
Films were shot in Kashmir, some of them iconic like “Kashmir ki Kali,” “Arzoo”, “ Kabhie-Kabhie and so on.

Last Friday – August 18, while launching the shooting of “ Pashmina” TV serial in Srinagar, Lieutenant Governor  Manoj Sinha said, “ Kashmir is once again emerging as a favourite film destination. The era of film shootings until 1980s when Hollywood and Bollywood films were shot in Kashmir is returning.”

His thesis was simple. There were two tracks – first of these he left unsaid at the time of the launch of the TV serial, but the meaning was more than clear; that the situation has turned around so much in the once militancy ridden Valley that it is safe for anyone to come and shoot films. In the same context, he attributed the success of more than 300 movies having been shot in Kashmir to the film policy of his government launched two years ago. There is a great element of truth in it.

Films were shot in Kashmir, some of them iconic like “Kashmir ki Kali,” “Arzoo”, “ Kabhie-Kabhie and so on.

In these movies Kashmir used to see a global reflection of its peaceful image, entertainment and hospitality, while the rest of the nation that could not manage to visit, enjoyed the majestic beauty of Kashmir in cinema halls. This enhanced the bond between Kashmir and the rest of the country. Unfortunately, there was a drought in film shootings in Kashmir for almost three decades, beginning 1990. But that doesn’t mean that there were no film shootings. Some of the pictures like “Mission Kashmir,” were shot in the Valley. Sanjay Dutt, Preity Zinta, Hrithik Roshan starrer Mission Kashmir’s songs,  Bumbro Bumbro….., and Rinde Poshmaal Gindynai -  drawn from Kashmiri folk songs - touched hearts of Kashmiris. And these became an instant hits. Mission Kashmir was watched by the people in Kashmir on VCRs, now the devices rendered obsolete. The story was a piece of  fiction woven around truthful. It was not a propaganda film. Kashmiris know the truth better than the film makers, and they know where the truth is being reflected and where the propaganda begins. This film connected all the communities of Kashmir, within the Valley, and also those who had migrated under fear, threat and coercion, because it took them to their roots.

LG Sinha referred to Kashmir of 1980s in reference to the film shootings. There is absolutely no doubt about it. Top stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Alia Bhat and others have visited Kashmir and shot their films in Kashmir. This has given a new vibrancy to Kashmir. And it can hope to return to 1980s.

The Kashmir of 1980s is not just return to the days of film shootings. It is a throwback to the happiest times in Kashmir when it was free from all fears, there was no security personnel guarding the streets and roads or keeping a watch over the would be saboteurs. Had it continued the way it was, say in 1988, it would have been Paris in real sense. In 1988, 7.22 lakh, including nearly 70,000 foreigners had visited the Valley itself. It was set to show an upward trend before the arrival of hit and run process of shootouts and grenade explosions injecting fear, and the tourists saw 1990 coming much before it actually happened.

The 1990 is reckoned as zero calendar year of the armed militancy in the Valley – by that time the militants and their patrons had gained a strong foothold, though a historical fact cannot be denied that a vast majority of the population acquiesced to this phenomenon. This majority also watched with a sense of complete helplessness the migration of Kashmiri Pandits targeted selectively. This  is a distortion of the history that the majority community was complicit in forcing the migration of Pandits from the Valley. Had that been the case the Kashmiri Pandits would not have trusted their Muslim neighbours, whom they handed over keys of their homes. Nevertheless, the migration was a big tragedy, and a permanent blot on the land of Nund Rishi and Lal Ded. Here, it is pertinent to mention that a sense of guilt, vicarious or for real that the generation of the era had about Kashmiri Pandit leaving the Valley, is fading. The new generation has neither the memories nor any such sense of guilt.

The 1980s was a defining period of the history of Kashmir. If that was the time, when vision of smart city was laid out following the unwritten Rajiv-Farooq accord. In 986, the Centre had committed Rs. 1,000 crore development projects for J&K, in which the idea of underground cables and round the clock electricity and water supply were to transform the life of Kashmiris. In the now much defamed 1987 polls, which it is claimed proved to be the trigger for militancy in the land of Sufis and Saints, also had an element of campaign against extremism. Farooq Abdullah who was leading National Conference campaign in Kashmir after having forged an alliance with Congress, had struck a very strong note against extremists and their educational institutions. But, unfortunately for him, the extremism was so deep rooted and the ecosystem of the extremism had gained so much strength, that he could not even order the closure of the educational institutions, which had become nurseries of extremism.

Delhi of the times is no less guilty in destabilization and indirectly feeding extremism. Sheikh Abdullah who had put his reputation as all-time champion of Kashmiri people when he agreed to 1975 accord, and returned as Chief Minister ( not Prime Minister, the title that he enjoyed at the time of his arrest in August 1953) died as an unhappy man. Delhi had started playing tricks – his government was destabilized in 1977, though he returned with a thumping majority in Assembly polls in 1977, yet he could not feel comfortable. Delhi started playing its games. The same thing happened to his son Farooq Abdullah in 1984, when Kashmiris who were against Farooq and NC, also started wondering, why did Delhi do this to the duly elected government in Jammu and Kashmir. The distrust deepened. More than 1987 polls, rigged or genuine, 1983 campaign  on the communal lines by Congress in Hindu dominated areas in Jammu and National Conference in Kashmir, sowed seeds of what happened later. That was all in 1980s.

A Pakistani diplomat had asked former Prime Minister P V Narsimha Rao in Singapore, that why Kashmir has been militarized so much? His reply was a reality – there were no presence of army in the hinterland in the Valley, before Pakistan started exporting terrorism and disrupted life in the Valley. It was in response to Pakistan sponsored terrorism. Rao’s reply was truthful and emphatic.

Same holds true for the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which was introduced in Jammu and Kashmir in July 1990, and then extended to the whole of the erstwhile state, barring Ladakh, in August 2001. The forces were given these extraordinary powers to combat terrorism. There were no such special powers with the forces in 1980s.

Now when Kashmir is returning to 1980s, and the windows are opening to fresh air of normalcy and certainty in life – the 1980s represent both glorious past and bright future for J&K. The 360 degree approach is needed, and for that it is imperative to study Kashmir of 1980s afresh. The return of film shootings to Valley is beckoning the period of 33 years ago.

Author is an eminent journalist.

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