Launched with much fanfare, Jammu and Kashmir’s Film Policy-2021 doesn’t have much to offer to the local cinema—with stakeholders calling the policy closer to tourism development and not the film production.
“Why do we need to make films? Why are films important historically? What should be done to revive and reinvent local and regional cinema? These are some of the concerns that ought to be addressed in the Film Policy,” noted cinematographer and chairman of Karnataka State Chalachitra Cultural Academy, Ashok Cashyap, told Greater Kashmir.
Cashyap, who has had a tremendous tenure of shooting some of his remarkable projects in Kashmir for Doordarshan during the 1980s, says that Kashmir has many things to offer to filmmakers. “It is a God’s own created set for the filmmakers. All you need to do is to pick up the camera and shoot your camera and shoot some interesting stories. I am sure, the end results will be stunningly amazing,” “Jammu and Kashmir’s government has taken measures to uplift film culture. However, I see it in a way that Kashmir has had an amazing relationship with Bollywood and people here were always cinema literate.
The reason for that is if you go back and see what kind of movies used to be screened in theatres, one can imagine and understand the cinema-going class here,” he recalled.
“Under the policy, the government must provide assistance to the local filmmakers which can then make an ecosystem of providing jobs to the bottom in this line,” he says, adding “You can only promote regional cinema by giving them the upper hand in the policy, not making them subsidiaries.”
Cashyap, who is currently in Kashmir, doing first-hand research and recce for his projects, says that he would explore options to take the majority of the crew from the region itself.
“Kashmir has some beautiful brains in cinema. We need to give them a chance to come forward and try their luck in doing the best films,” he hoped. Divulging into the policy draft, the J&K government is aiming to incentivise owners to reopen closed cinema halls, upgrade the existing ones and encourage the setting-up of multiplexes, besides offering a slew of subsidies to establish the UT as the first choice for filmmakers as a shooting destination.
Actor and director, Ayash Arif, while sharing his thoughts about the film policy told Greater Kashmir, that any policy for the welfare of the stakeholders is good. However, the stakeholders must always be kept in the loop for the greater success of the policies.
“While going through the draft of the Film Policy of other states, I must say that we surely can take a lot of benefit from our Policy. But all we need from the government is to handhold the local filmmakers and give a new lease of life to the regional cinema,” he maintained. “We have been requesting the government to constitute a committee and look out for the possibilities of floating Film Finance Corporation which can lend soft loans to the filmmakers amidst scarce avenues of corporate houses or financiers.”
Mumbai based-filmmaker from Chenab Valley in the Jammu region, Tariq Khan, appears to be disgruntled with what he calls as Government’s “lip services”.
“It is merely an administrative strategy document that lacks vision for the promotion of the film industry. It is not a film policy but rather a secondary tourism policy,” he alleged.
“Ever since the document came into the public domain and the policy was implemented, we haven’t seen much happening in our favour. We don’t want unnecessary favours from the government. All we want is hassle-free services, single window clearances of our documents and also the hassle-free movement of our crew,” he demanded. “Jammu and Kashmir must give us a special provision to grow in bringing more and more films on the national platforms,” he says, adding “In times of OTTs and other platforms for the film release, our government must give us an upper hand so that we don’t have to beg for basic criteria.”
Notably, the Film Policy-2021 was approved by the Administrative Council led by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on August 5, 2021 and was launched with much fanfare in the presence of Bollywood actor Amir Khan and film-maker Raj Kumar Hirani besides others at SKICC.
As per an order issued by the then Principal Secretary J&K Department of Information and Public Relations, Rohit Kansal IAS, the policy sets the vision up till 2026, with the aim of maximising the potential of both the Jammu & Kashmir film servicing industry as well as the promising local film sector. “This policy will serve to transform Jammu & Kashmir into a unique film destination.” The policy strives to create a nationally competitive infrastructure in Jammu & Kashmir. It assures administrative assistance to ease filmmaking in the UT by setting up Single Window Cell to grant permission for shooting films, preferably within 2 to 4 weeks. Through this ambitious move, the government also plans to facilitate the overall growth of the J&K Film Industry by setting up of Jammu & Kashmir Film Development Council, J&K Film Division along with easy access to the “Website for Talent Pool” and other shooting destinations. Officials say that the aim of the Policy is to create a vibrant ecosystem for the film fraternity. The government will also set up signage boards with information related to the film to attract more tourists.
Spelling out the major objectives, Jammu and Kashmir’s Film policy aims at generating opportunities for job creation, attracting additional capital investment through the film industry and providing information about the most incredible, amazing and beautiful places across J&K. According to the policy draft, it would also act as the means to attract tourists through a location directory on the Single Window portal of all-weather locations in Jammu & Kashmir for the shooting of films and disseminate information about the art, culture, history, heritage, livelihood and glorious traditions of the UT.
“DIPR has done a tremendous job in easing out the process of film shooting permissions. Initially, the tourism department was full of clutter,” a senior Line Producer, wishing not to be named, says.
“Promotion of regional cinema is the need of the hour. We have to take our calibre to the level of Iranian cinema and that will only come with good filmmakers from Kashmir,” he says. “We can become filmmakers by being passionate about it, then we will find a way to tell our stories. We shouldn’t be asking for help from the government for telling our stories. We rather do it loudly, professionally and passionately.”
Meanwhile, the officials say that in order to realise the objectives of J&K Film Policy, a Jammu & Kashmir Film Development Council (JKFDC) would be constituted, fully fledged. It shall be a separate vertical and act as a distinct agency to achieve the objectives of the Film Policy. They say that the Council would be a high-powered committee headed by a senior officer of the rank of Principal Secretary to the government and shall comprise besides other senior officers, eminent personalities of film-industry and others related to the industry. “J&K Film Division will be constituted under the Information and Public Relations Department for running the short, educational films made in J&K in the cinema houses and implementation of the Film Policy,” officials at DIPR’s film unit, say.
The Film Policy has accorded the status of Industry to the film sector in Jammu & Kashmir which shows a structural shift of the government towards it. A structure in the form of the Jammu and Kashmir Film Development Council (JKFDC) has been set up to look for all matters in the film sector—a move most filmmakers believe is still on the papers and not translated into reality. The policy has also employed existing institutions like EMMRC, the University of Kashmir, and FTII, Pune for offering their services, structures, and expertise in this realm.
The promising thing about the policy is that it envisages the setting up of film and drama schools in the UT to impart instructions and practical training in fine arts, acting, directing, and other crafts of filmmaking.
According to experts, as the policy has converted the film sector into an industry, it is entitled to enjoy all the tax incentives, sops, and subsidies as provided in the new industrial policy in addition to those mentioned in the policy itself.
“It is really great to see a new dawn in the filmmaking scenario in Jammu and Kashmir,” noted filmmaker and broadcaster, Pran Kishore, told Greater Kashmir. “Engaging local talents in films will set a new trend in UT and open new career opportunities for local talents,” he says.
Observers say that the re-opening of closed cinema halls, upgrading the existing ones, and encouraging the setting up of multiplexes by offering a slew of subsidies and tax incentives needs collaboration from civil society, the private sector, and NGOs to revive the entertainment industry across Jammu and Kashmir would bring new lease of life to the film sector.
Jammu and Kashmir government’s tourism department is working toward a greater goal and woo filmmakers to the valley. Officials inform that they have selected 300 destinations for promoting film tourism in the UT this year while G-20 will be the major international event and a great opportunity for J&K.
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the inauguration of the first show of the newly released movie— ‘Welcome To Kashmir’, directed by Tariq Bhat, at Inox Cinema Srinagar, Secretary, Tourism and Department of Culture, Syed Abid Rasheed, informed that last year 200 plus movies were shot in J&K. “This year our focus is to promote film tourism and for that, we have kept 300 destinations on the table of film producers and directors to choose any place for shooting. For this our staff is providing hassle-free services to the stakeholders,” he says.
“This year, film tourism will be promoted in a major way so that many untouched destinations are explored. There are many destinations much better than European destinations across Jammu and Kashmir,” Shah says.
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.