Srinagar: The G20 summit in Srinagar is a step towards projecting Jammu and Kashmir as an international film shooting destination.
The three-day Tourism Working Group Meeting of G20 delegates in Srinagar on May 22, 2023, commenced with the side event on "Film Tourism for Economic and Cultural Preservation."
Participants deliberated upon the importance of film tourism and its impact on the economy and culture. They unanimously agreed upon the fact that J-K is the best place to shoot the films.
They exuded hope that the scenic locations of Union Territory would be explored by the filmmakers in times to come and the G20 meeting would give a fillip to film tourism in the region.
It may be recalled that till 1990, Kashmir was the second home for Bollywood. Way back in 1949 late Raj Kapoor shot some sequences of his film Barsaat in Kashmir, taking its serene beauty to the audience. After that Kashmir became the focus area of many film producers.
In the 1960s and 1970s, several Bollywood films, including 'Kashmir Ki Kali' (1964), 'Jab Jab Phool Khile' (1965) and 'Bobby' (1973), among many others, were shot in Kashmir. The songs of these films remained favourites for generations to come.
However, after an insurgency broke out in J-K in the early nineties the filmmakers were compelled to snap ties with the region due to uncertainty and chaos that prevailed due to the violence orchestrated by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists and the separatists.
Due to the insurgency, cinema halls were burnt, artists and others who were associated with the film industry were threatened.
Bollywood made a comeback to J-K post-2000 when films like 'Mission Kashmir' and 'Haider' were shot in Kashmir. But the return was incomplete as the sporadic violent incidents like grenade throwing, cross-firing and stone-pelting continued.
On August 5, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government took a historic decision to abrogate Article 370, a temporary provision in the Constitution, and merged J-K completely with the Union of India.
The move marked the beginning of peace returning to J-K, especially Kashmir. It ended the hegemony of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists and separatists.
The breaking out of a new dawn in the Himalayan region led to J-K embarking on the journey of peace, prosperity and development.
J-K Film Policy 2021
In August 2021, the government launched a new 'J-K Film Policy' with an aim to develop the Union Territory as the first choice of film shooting destination for filmmakers and to bring back the golden era of filmmaking to the strife-torn region. The new film policy led to the creation of a vibrant film ecosystem. Filmmakers from across the world were invited to visit J-K and explore the pristine beauty of the region.
At the same time, they were also offered a host of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, besides world-class facilities. The government set up a 'single window clearance mechanism; prepared equipment, location and talent directories, besides offering a host of incentives for filmmakers coming to J-K.
The new policy also maximized the potential of promising local talent and created livelihood opportunities for many others.
The 'J-K Film Policy 2021' was drafted after consultations with the experts and an in-depth study of progressive film policies of other states, UTs and abroad.
Suggestions from renowned people in the Indian film industry were also incorporated while formulating it.
At present J-K is offering all the facilities to filmmakers that are available at locations in Europe, America and other countries.
Film shooting returns
After 2019 J-K regained its proud legacy of association with the world of cinema, and the long and cherished tradition of film shooting. Unexplored places in J-K that were left unattended have been developed as potential destinations for film shoots with the requisite facilities. The new film policy has also given a fillip to the film tourism sector, thus opening up more employment avenues for the locals. Around 1.88 million tourists visiting J-K in 2022 are ample proof that the security concerns have been addressed and the terrorism has been wiped from Jammu and Kashmir. The Union Territory is fast emerging as the most profitable, cost-effective and economically viable destination for filmmakers. Film production can have a major impact on travel destinations as the cinematic exposure to a destination transforms the place into a tourist destination. J-K's culture and heritage provide an enabling environment for the world to shoot the best films in the region. The government has also set up the Jammu and Kashmir Film Development Council; providing hands-on access to a website for the talent pool and all shooting destinations; development of shooting locales, and infrastructure for the film screening.
Silver screen shines after 3 decades
In September 2022 J-K Lieutenant General Manoj Sinha inaugurated the first-of-its-kind multiplex in Kashmir after cinemas were shut down in the region in the 1990s, in the Shivpora locality of Srinagar district. The multiplex, which has a capacity of 520 people, is designed by INOX with the latest technology. With the opening of the multiplex, in Srinagar, silver screen returned to Kashmir after more than three decades.
Just a few days before throwing open a multiplex in Srinagar, LG Sinha inaugurated two cinema halls in Shopian and Pulwama in South Kashmir. Both districts in 2019 were considered to be the hotbeds of terrorism and stone-pelting.
The work is on to open up cinema halls in all the 20 districts of Jammu and Kashmir so that people of the erstwhile princely state don't remain deprived of any facility that is enjoyed by the denizens of other states and UTs across the country.