Journey of cinema in Kashmir

Kashmir’s stunning locations attracted movie makers in 1970s and 1980s
Representational Image
Representational Image [Creative Commons]

Kashmir has always been a source of inspiration for cinema, with its stunning landscape and scenic beauty serving as the backdrop for numerous blockbusters such as, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Kashmir ki Kali, Kabhi Kabhi and Bobby.

The valley’s captivating locales have always been a popular attraction for filmmakers, with even international movies being shot in Kashmir.

The breathtaking beauty of Kashmir has always been a major draw for filmmakers, with the valley featuring in many popular Bollywood movies. Betaab is one such movie that was set in the valley and became immensely popular with audience.

So much so that the valley, formerly known as Hagan Valley, was renamed Betaab Valley after the hit movie. Similarly, Bobby, a famous movie from 1973, was shot in a hut that became known as Bobby Hut after the movie.

Kashmir’s stunning locations and scenery continued to attract movie makers well into the 1970s and 1980s. It wasn’t just Bollywood that was drawn to the valley; two international movies, The Razor’s Edge in 1983, and The Climb in 1986, were also shot in the Kashmir Valley.

The valley’s popularity as a film location can be attributed to its picturesque landscapes, snow-capped mountains, serene lakes, and charming villages, making it a perfect backdrop for any film. Despite the challenges and conflicts that the region has faced over the years, it continued to captivate filmmakers with its timeless beauty.

The love for cinema in the valley was undeniable, with movie theatres consistently packed with people eager to watch both Bollywood and Hollywood films.

The quality of the theatre wasn’t the most important thing; what mattered was the passion and love that people had for movies and the enjoyment that movies provided for them.

Going to the movie theatre and watching a film was a favourite pastime for many in the valley. In Srinagar, movie theatres such as Palladium, Sheeraz, and Neelam were on the tip of people’s lips and have remained etched in their memories over the years.

In fact, going to the movies was a popular pastime for everyone in Kashmir. People of all ages, genders and backgrounds have a deep passion for movies and would flock to the cinemas to catch their favourite Bollywood and Hollywood flicks. The atmosphere in the cinema halls would be electric, with the audience enthusiastically cheering and whistling, often mimicking their favourite stars’ dialogues. When it came to seating arrangements, people had their own preferences and would often choose to sit in the balcony, first class, or second class seats. It was a joyful and communal experience that brought people together to celebrate the magic of cinema.

Anantnag, also known as Islamabad, was another popular location for cinemagoers in the Kashmir Valley. The first talkie introduced in the area was fondly nicknamed as Halwa Talkie, located in the Lalchowk area of Anantnag. In the mid-80s, another talkie named “Heevan” was established, but due to the unrest in the valley, it had a short life span and closed down just a few years after its operation. However, “Halwa Talkie” enjoyed a successful run of Bollywood movies, with blockbusters such as Kabhi Kabhie, Yaadon Ki Baaraat, and Trishul among the many films were shown in the cinema.

There is an interesting story behind the name of the Halwa Talkie . It’s fascinating to learn how the distribution of halwa (a sweet delicacy ) during the inauguration of the cinema helped establish the talkie’s popularity among the people. It was opened by a rich and affluent family of the town. The story goes that on the inauguration of the talkie, the owner of the talkie distributed Halwa to friends and relatives hence people named it Halwa talkie. Till now people remember it by its nickname.

It’s also worth noting how the audience’s peculiar behaviour towards the theatre could turn erratic after the movie’s end. While it’s understandable that people were emotionally invested in the movies they watched, it’s unfortunate that the poor theatre had to suffer the consequences of their tantrums, when they would turn the seats upside down or throw stones at the theatre as the movie ended.

The 80’s era opened a new chapter in the world of cinema here. The popularity of VCR technology was not limited to specific regions or demographics, it also made an impact in Kashmir during the era. The popularity of VCRs and pirated VCDs among the masses created a whole new industry of video rental shops across the valley. These shops would rent out VCRs and VCDs for a certain amount of money, and people would keep them to watch movies at home with family and friends day and night. In the 1980s, VCRs (Video Cassette Recorders) became very popular, and owning one was seen as a status symbol. This was partly due to the fact that VCRs allowed people to watch movies without having to go to a movie theatre or wait for a TV broadcast. During the 80’s till 90’s, VCRs were the primary means of home video entertainment, and their popularity was at its peak. It was not surprising for people to request their relatives or acquaintances who were traveling to Mecca for the pilgrimage to purchase VCRs from Saudi Arabia.

Nonetheless, by the end of 80’s, the closure of theatres in Kashmir brought an end to the golden era of cinema and entertainment in the region. However, it was only theatres that were closed and not the cinema industry. Who can forget Salman Khan’s long greasy locks in ‘Tere Naam (2003)’ from autowallahs to college youngsters, everybody wanted to ape their favourite superstar by flaunting this hairdo. It is hard to forget the green and white lehenga Madhuri wore in Hum Aapkey hain Kaun (1993), which is still a perfect inspiration for all wedding events. It’s a testament to the enduring popularity of Bollywood and its ability to captivate its audiences here even in challenging circumstances.

It is true that the Kashmir faced several challenges that prevented the establishment of PVRs and multiplexes for almost three decades. However, the availability of Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms has made it possible for people to access a wide variety of content from the comfort of their homes.

OTT platforms have become popular in Kashmir, as they offer viewers access to a broad range of content, including movies, TV shows, documentaries, and web series. These platforms have proved to be a significant source of entertainment and information for the people of Kashmir, who have been able to connect with the rest of the world through these services.

Moreover, OTT platforms have also opened up new opportunities for filmmakers, actors, and other artists in Kashmir, who can now showcase their work to a global audience without relying on traditional channels. This has helped to promote the rich culture and heritage of Jammu and Kashmir, which was previously limited to local audiences.

Overall, the popularity of OTT platforms in Kashmir highlights the potential of digital technology to overcome barriers and connect people from different regions and cultures. As these platforms continue to evolve and expand, they are likely to play an increasingly important role in shaping the entertainment industry in Jammu and Kashmir and beyond. It’s true that the opening of a multiplex in Kashmir at this time may not be seen as very welcome, especially if people have found new ways of entertainment and have better choices. However, it’s also worth noting that the popularity of multiplexes has been declining in many parts of the world, and this trend may continue.

In any case, it’s important for the multiplex to understand the local context and the preferences of the audience in Kashmir. They may need to adapt their offerings to cater to the local tastes and ensure that they are providing an experience that cannot be found elsewhere. At the same time, it’s also worth noting that the entertainment industry is constantly evolving, and what may be popular today may not be popular tomorrow. Therefore, it’s important for the multiplex to remain flexible and adaptable to changing trends and preferences.

Overall, the opening of a multiplex in Kashmir may be seen as a mixed bag, but it ultimately depends on how well the multiplex is able to understand and cater to the local audience.

The author is bureau chief of a Jammu based English daily newspaper.

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.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Greater Kashmir