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Amid Kashmir’s militancy, cinemas turned into security camps will soon be open to the public

In light of the closure of Kashmir’s cinemas since 1990s after the outbreak of militancy, the J&K government’s new Film Policy 2021 aims to bring Kashmir’s golden era back to the silver screen. Last month, J&K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha launched the J&K Film Policy, a first-of-its-kind policy that also focuses on the reopening of cinemas. Television and other forms of entertainment compete with films for the attention of viewers these days. As a result, there has been a sharp drop in the number of moviegoers, which has forced the closure of many cinema halls, and many have been forced to close. High-quality facilities in film screening halls are crucial to bringing back the public into cinemas. Indiatimes has a copy of the policy document which discusses the importance of giving cinemagoers a unique experience when watching films in a theatre.

As a part of its commitment to the reopening of closed cinema halls, the Jammu & Kashmir State Government will encourage and incentivize owners. Incentives for such units will be provided under the provisions of the J&K Industrial Policy 2021, according to the order. Authorities will upgrade and renovate the cinemas in order to reopen them. In order to promote film viewing in cinema halls, it is important to upgrade the facilities and technologies available there. Through various incentives, the government of J&K should encourage cinema hall owners to build modern amenities. According to the document, incentives for such units will be determined under the J&K Industrial Policy 2021. However, the government said that multiplexes would also be encouraged in the valley.

In order to promote Jammu & Kashmir as a major location for shooting and producing feature films and non-feature films, digital and television, the Jammu & Kashmir Film Development Council (JKFDC) will undertake several initiatives. ‘A list of deliverables included in the written contract for producers of incentive films would include the incorporation of the J&K Film Development Council’s logo, which must be proof of inclusion in the subvention application,’ it reads.

In the 1980’s, there were a total of 15 cinema halls in Srinagar, nine of which were functional. In Srinagar, the most famous cinemas were ‘Broadway’, ‘Regal’, ‘Neelam’, ‘Palladium’, ‘Firdaus’, ‘Shiraz’, ‘Khayam’, ‘Naaz’, and ‘Shah’. Most of them have now become security camps, while others have been converted into hotels and even hospitals.

Security forces took over these cinema halls to use as headquarters for their stay following the outbreak of militancy, and they now lie in a dilapidated state without any basic amenities. As part of the filming of movies, the Regal, Neelam and Broadway cinema halls were allowed to reopen in 1999 when the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah’s government tried to reopen cinema halls. One person was killed and 12 others injured during the first screening at Regal cinema due to a militant attack. Cinemas were once again locked.

Kashmir Cinema Dates

In 1999, a Kashmiri musician named Imran Latief watched the movie Taal at the Broadway cinema in New York City, he told Indiatimes. It was packed with both male and female audience members. Watching a Bollywood film on a big screen was an entirely different experience. Latief recalls that the cinema halls eventually disappeared somewhere. Latief says cinema shouldn’t be viewed in a negative light. ‘Films are also a source of education and can convey social issues to the audience’, he said, adding, ‘Governments should promote the work of local filmmakers’.

As an actor, Zameer Ashai remembers the ‘old days’ when he was able to watch his favorite movies in the cinema. ‘I remember watching movies like Mughal-E-Azam and Mera Saaya at the Palladium Cinema in Srinagar in 1977. Cinema has made me an actor because it was the place where I have learned every aspect of acting,’ he says. Mir Sarwar, a Bollywood actor of Kashmiri origin, once said, ‘I first saw the Bollywood film Ilzam at Broadway cinema in the late 1980s. ‘It was an entirely different experience’.

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Kashmir-based playwright, theatre and visual storyteller Arshad Mushtaq believes that there is no need for cinemas in the valley unless local films are made. ‘In the last 30-years, only eight Kashmiri films have been made so I think there wouldn’t be any need for cinemas unless more films are made like it is done in Mumbai and Iran,’ he says. Arshad also highlighted several important points pertaining to the cinemas in the valley, he said, ‘One needs to see what kind of films are to be screened in the cinema if authorities are reopening them and are they going to impose censorship on them. I don’t think one needs cinema in the times of OTT. I have seen James Bond, Superman, Spiderman series and the first 3D film screened in Kashmir at Broadway cinema. It used to be a complete family show then,’ he says while recapping the old days.

A Ray Of Hope, Kashmir World Film Festival

Kashmir World Film Festival (KWFF), the first of its kind to be held in Srinagar since 2017, reminds residents of the joy of going to the movies. Bollywood stars attend the festival to watch local, national, and international films. It is the main objective of the festival to screen films of world-class quality in Kashmir, especially for young people. Mushtaaque Ali Ahmad Khan, founder and director of the festival, says, ‘We provide an international platform for filmmakers of the valley to showcase their work’.


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