Lights, camera, action: Indian film industry returns to ‘heaven on earth’
By Shah Abbas
Srinagar, India, Sep 20 (EFE).- The Indian film industry has turned its cameras again to the idyllic Himalayan countryside of Kashmir after a three-decade break as separatist violence declines in the disputed region that the Mughals called a “heaven on earth.”
The return of the Bollywood to shoot in Kashmir coincides with the reopening of movie theaters in the Muslim-majority valley that has suffered decades of bloodshed.
The Indian government has facilitated multi-screen theaters to premier films in a region without a movie hall.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, the region’s top administrator, inaugurated Sringar city’s first multiplex on Tuesday in a cantonment area housing the valley’s largest military base.
Sinha opened similar theaters two days before, one in each of the south Kashmir districts of Pulwama and Shopian, which were historically hotbeds of anti-India armed rebellion.
The picturesque valley was once a go-to place for Indian films before the cinematic romance of Bollywood faded into a bloody uprising that began in 1989.
The love affair between Kashmir and Bollywood began in the 1960s – the era that saw then-superstar Shammi Kapoor dancing and sliding down the snow slopes to romance his co-star Saira Banu in the 1961 “Junglee.”
Kapoor, a scion of the Indian film industry’s first family, returned with his iconic dance moves for “Kashmir Ki Kali” in 1964, singing praises for his love interest on a boat sailing on the famous Dal Lake of Srinagar.
Then came the golden era of the 1970s and the 80s when only a few Indian movies would give Kashmir a miss.
Films like “Jab Jab Phool Khile” (1965), “Aarzoo” (1965), “Janwar” (1965), “Roti” (1974), “Kabhi Kabhie” (1976), “Noorie” (1979), and “Silsila” (1981) immortalized the beauty of Kashmir, giving a boost to the local tourism sector.
The 1990s saw the region awash in the bloodshed, and the Indian film cameras shifted to Kashmir-lookalike European locals.
The bomb and gun violence raged. Islamist militants even forced the closure of movie theaters later turned into military camps and interrogation centers.
Only a few movies were shot in Kashmir – partly though – in the last more than 30 years, which included blockbusters like “Mission Kashmir” (2000), “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” (2012), “Haider” (2014), and “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” (2015).
But the violence-induced hiatus is slowly but steadily ending. This year, tourists flocked to the region known for its freshwater lakes, babbling ice water brooks, lush green meadows, and snow-capped mountains.
With visitors came Bollywood actors filming their movies, dancing and romancing with their co-stars.
Among the recent actors to shoot in Kashmir was Vicky Kaushal, who last year married Katrina Kaif, a Bollywood heartthrob and highly-paid female star.
Earlier, Emraan Hashmi – Bollywood’s “serial-kisser,” thanks to his adult-rated films like “Gangster” and “Murder” – landed in the valley for a military drama, “Ground Zero,” in which he plays an Indian army officer.
“First time in the paradise city of Srinagar. Countdown to Zero … Lights, camera, action,” Hashmi captioned an Instagram picture from his flight to Kashmir almost three weeks ago.
Kaushal is shooting for “Sam Bahadur,” — a movie based on Indian war hero Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, the Indian Army chief in 1971 when India fought the Bangladesh Liberation War with Pakistan.