Kashmir gets first movie in three decades, but no theatres
Filmmaker Hussain Khan, who has finally completed work on the first Kashmiri movie in three decades, is now staring at a major stumbling block. Khan's maiden film 'Kashmir Daily' tells the life of a journalist. He has written, directed and produced the movie, which cost him Rs. 70 lakh. However, his next problem is: where exactly to screen his film?
'Kashmir Daily' finally opened on May 23 in Srinagar's Tagore Hall: not a cinema hall by any standard, but manageable. The first show sold only 50-60 tickets, each priced at Rs. 150. It will keep running at least till May 26. There will be three shows daily, except on Friday. Meanwhile, "some companies have booked shows for Thursday and Friday", says Khan.
Before the 80s, Kashmir's movie scene was lively and thriving. "There were long queues outside the iconic Palladium cinema in Lal Chowk, and getting a ticket was very difficult," says Bhawani Bashir Yasir, a veteran theatre personality. "There would be tea vendors lined up outside (after late-night shows)…It would be safe to walk back home even at 1am," recalls Bashir Manzar, editor of Daily Kashmir Images.
The Valley has had no cinema hall since 1989, when the outfit Allah Tigers banned them and threatened those operating. Earlier, there were over 15 halls in Kashmir. In 1999, the government reopened Regal, but militants attacked the inaugural show. One died and 12 were injured. Heavy security was provided when Neelam and Broadway reopened, but presence of personnel also deterred viewers. Both shut down again.
Absence of theatres hasn't hindered the Valley's movie-lovers. If not halls, they learnt to do with the small screens of their televisions and computers. Though sellers of video cassettes were also threatened by militants, the business thrived. Sales of CDs and DVDs gradually picked up. Eventually, internet downloads too became a regular thing. However, since internet is unreliable in Kashmir, the industry sustains itself.
It is ironical, considering Kashmir is a treasure trove of talent and nature. Before the advent of militancy in the late 1980s, Bollywood directors turned to the Valley when in need of enchanting locations. Recently, with films like 'Rockstar' and 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan', Bollywood has restarted looking towards Kashmir. Actors from Kashmir (Zaira Wasim, Rayes Mohiuddin, Danish Bhat etc) have also left their mark in the industry.
Khan, who spent his own money and borrowed from friends to make the movie (which is why the project took three years to finish), hopes that after generating funds through nominally-priced tickets, they can eventually release the film across India and the world.