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Kashmir’s film industry longs for life


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The turmoil in Kashmir saw the closure of cinema halls of which some were bombed and others were occupied by security forces.– AP (File Photo)

SRINAGAR: Even though Bollywood has returned to the Valley with movies like Rockstar and  Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Kashmir’s own film industry still longs for life.

Marred by conflict and government negligence, Kashmir's film industry continues to fight for revival despite its glorious past.

Historically, movie making in Kashmir began way back in 1964. Manziraat (Henna ceremony) is known to be the first Kashmiri feature film. Released in the year 1964, the movie was directed by Jagjiram Pal. It was screened at a cinema hall in the main city of Kashmir, and evoked tremendous response from the people.

The film was rewarded with president’s award. The first documentary film made in Kashmir was Pamposh (Lotus) made by Ezra Mir in 1952. The film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

Manziraat was followed by Shayar-e-Kashmir Mehjoor, which was a joint venture of the Department of Information of the State and some Indian movie makers like Prabhat Mukherjee. The movie was made in Urdu and Kashmiri language. Released in 1972, it focused on the life of the famous writer and poet of Kashmir, Mehjoor.

The movie making in Kashmir witnessed a long gap of 39 years after the release of Mehjoor. No feature film was produced here during the course of time barring Babaji (father) directed by Jyoti Suroo. The film was not screened in Kashmir.

However, telefilms (short duration films meant for television screening) were being produced here from time to time. The most popular amongst  them were Rasool Mir (1974-75) directed by Bashir Badgami; Habba Khatoon by Bashir Badgami (1977-1978)  and Arnimaal directed by Siraj Qureshi in 1982-83.

Meanwhile, Bollywood movies were screened in the cinema halls of Kashmir and for decades, Kashmir provided sets and backgrounds to a series of Bollywood block busters.

However, the commencement of insurgency in 1989 not only kept Bollywood away from Kashmir but also halted the film making culture of Kashmir. Some meager efforts to make films during the period met failure. A feature movie was produced in 1989 titled Inqalaab but due to the turbulent situations, it could not be released.

The turmoil saw the closure of cinema halls of which some were bombed and others were occupied by security forces.

In 1996, the National Conference government revived movie-going. Broadway Cinema opened with Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Kareeb in the presence of then chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah. Regal and Neelam followed suit.

But Regal closed after a post-show grenade attack killed two people. A militant strike in the neighbourhood of Broadway forced detention of viewers for the entire night, destroying business. Neelam is open but screens old films.

Breaking the decades of lull in film industry, Kashmir produced its first digital feature film, Akh Daleel Looluch (A story of love) in 2006. The movie talked about the social and political struggle of the people of Kashmir in 19th century while focusing on a love story. It was directed by Aarshad Mushtaq and was premiered in India.

Nevertheless, the condition of Kashmir’s regional movie making remain largely unchanged. Even today, hardly a movie is being made in Kashmir. The experts of the field allege the lack of attention on part of the government and the turbulent situations.

“We have not been able to develop the film industry due to conflict and the government’s negligence,” Ayash Arif, local film director and actor said.

Lack of financial agencies, film board and government attention has blocked the development of the film industry, he explained.

“We have no financing companies to finance our films. Government has never encouraged the growth of film industry here,” Arif said.

He revealed that they have brought the issue to the government’s attention several times, but in vain.

Arif added that Kashmir’s valuable talent in film production and acting goes waste due to the absence of film industry.

Documentary film maker, Bilal Jan claimed that the films makers, civil society and government have to join hands to revive regional film industry.

“A policy must be formulated and bill passed in the state Assembly wherein guidelines must be laid down for a film industry.”

He stressed on the need for exhibition halls, marketing incentives for the films.

Besides, Jan added, the social taboo associated with the film industry also needs to be defeated.

Kashmir does not have its own ministry of Information and Broadcasting and this comes under the purview of Central government. Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages is responsible for cultural activities, barring films.

A local actor, wishing anonymity said the lifeless film industry has snapped the opportunities for scores of actors, singers and other artists.

“We have no where to go. Not everyone can get into Bollywood. Our talents go waste due to the absence of regional cinema.”

Mean while, despite the lagging industry, there is still something to look forward to: Kashmir’s first 35mm feature film, Partav is ready for its premier in the first week of December.

Comments (22) Closed

raw is war Nov 24, 2012 07:30am
Kashmiris are Sufi Muslims. You guys will kill them anyway after killing all the Shias. So what is the use of common religion?
Maqbool Nov 23, 2012 11:44am
the writer should have written article on pakisatni movie rather than kashmiri movie industry ... both the industries have scrumbled because of better bollywood movies
rich Nov 23, 2012 01:11pm
the army occupied the thetres after they were closed by terrorist threats, most kashmiri flims were made by kashmiri hindus or were financed by them, with them out of the valley the industry have suffered but some of them are now in bollywood
Rao Nov 23, 2012 01:11pm
Survival of the fittest......If movies like "Bol" are produced by any industry, be it Kashmiri / Pakistani there will always be an audience for such efforts. A Kashmiri can produce a film with the help of Bollywood directors, in a similar locale anywhere in India...There is lack of interest or effort to do that.
Cynical Nov 23, 2012 01:25pm
This is one more reason why Kashmir should join Pakistan. Only Pakistan can do justice to Kashmiri film industry. After all we share the same religion.
Sajid Techno Nov 23, 2012 03:13pm
Weather good or bad Pakistan has a film industry. They have theaters running movies! What the writer did not mention was that in Kashmir the theaters where burnt by Islamists supported by Pakistan as they deem moviegoing to be unislamic! How ironic!
Silajit Nov 23, 2012 03:16pm
Many regional film industries are suffering because of competition from Bollywood. I'm a little tired of listening to how hard Kashmiris have it.
Bilal a jan Nov 25, 2012 01:43pm
thanks to the writer, she has beautifully potrayed the brief scenario of kashmiri film industry, kashmiris are intelligent and kashmir has very rich culture in terms of literature, paintings and creative hand work which dates back 5000 years. Kashmiri culture resembles with central Asia,We the people of kashmir never ever resembles with Pakistanis and Indians in terms of cultural ethos, but only Islam binds us with both the countries. When we were Independent Nation that time India and pakistan(Hindustan) as not a sovergin state and was under the british rule. But kashmir was not under the british rule. These two countries has forcefully occupied the land of Jammu and Kashmir. regarding the kashmiri film industry a little has to correct the article in terms of its information, that Akh Daleel Looluch (A story of love) in 2006 was the first digital film ,which i think was not correct,There are many local kashmiri films which was shot on digital film camers, one example is Habba khatoon --a locally made film produced by MTI of zahoor ahmad shah, and directed by Jehagir farash, the film was shot on PD150 Dgital camera. Where as Akh Daleel looluch was shot on Analog camera Beta Cam SP and some portions on Digital PD 170 as this was told to me by the director and cameraman itself. Regarding Partav-the film was shot on D5 high defenition Camera with lenses which is used in 35 mm camera ARRI, as told by cameraman (Yonnis) to me. But there is a lot of difference a film shot on 35mm, and a film shot on D5 HD camera. The information needs to be corrected. The writer should put right information to the readers. Bilal a jan filmmaker Kashmir--india
Nitesh Nov 25, 2012 02:37pm
please,your own lollywood itself is suffering due to piracy and competition from bollywood then how can u expect to revive the kashmiri film industry?people like ali zafar,veena malik,atif aslam were nothing when they were in your country.They rose to fame only after entering bollywood.
Deb Nov 25, 2012 04:01pm
They are few and far between. And Iranian movies, many times, are not even shown in Iran. They are shown in the west. It is not a good comparison at all. Movie making is an industry. It cannot survive with just a couple of movies a year.
P Setra Nov 24, 2012 04:19am
Regional films in India are still being made . South Indian movie industry(various languages)is huge.
Monodeep Chakraborty Nov 25, 2012 05:52am
Have you ever watched a Iranian movie. Specially those my Majid Majidi. If not, you have missed something in life. Monodeep Chakraborty.
K Nov 24, 2012 08:06am
In Islam watching movies are banned Pls ask any talban so what justice can happen to kashmiri movies
Dev Nov 26, 2012 08:40am
Just religion cannot bind people, otherwise why we would be having so many countries for only a dozen or so religions.
Razor Nov 25, 2012 06:22am
First do justice to your own Film Industry. Al your actors and artists are running to India for work.
yash Nov 23, 2012 01:49pm
why this frustration in comment dear
Naveen Kumar Nov 23, 2012 05:39pm
I heard that there were very few Cinemas in Pakistan . How can a film Industry survive without good number of cinemas ? CDs , we all know are mostly Pirated Stuff.
Girish Nov 24, 2012 05:07am
You will make the movies but who will watch them and where? If terrorists do not allow people to go to movie theaters then how can film industry succeed? and what can government do other than spend tax payer money to fund the movies. May be that is what these actors and producers want... a lunch...may be. Art and culture flourishes when there is peace and order in that society. Warring people never have time for art and culture.
Arpit Jain Nov 24, 2012 02:18pm
you can't save your industry and you will save Kashmiri film industry.. lol.. and please don't play this religious card.. We have probably equal if not more Muslims in India than in Pakistan.. so your argument has no water
rahul Nov 24, 2012 08:23am
isint it obvious that in muslim majority societies..there is no room for creative activities...why are people surprised or even talking abt it...
Monodeep Chakraborty Nov 25, 2012 06:54pm
Dear Deb, Surely, one or two movies does not make a industry. But one or two individuals of the caliber Majidi, certainly says something of the lot which produces such minds. My point is, we must think twice before making a sweeping statement on a whole society.
indian Nov 24, 2012 11:48am
Tats the funniest justification from anyone in Pakistan. God Bless