33 long years went by, without any cinematic recreation for residents of the Kashmir valley. Finally in 2022, Kashmiris are all set to get their first movie multiplex in the capital smart city of Srinagar. A welcome step for movie buffs who were being forced to watch pirated movies or wait for it to get uploaded online or in some cases, travel as far as Jammu to enjoy the same. Whereas It is going to be a nostalgic moment for the residents, it is surely going to be a crucial moment too for the government’s efforts towards normalcy in the valley.
This project has been supported by Taksal hospitality pvt ltd of famous Dhar family of Srinagar and in collaboration with famous theatre chain INOX. It is located in a sprawling 3-storey complex in Shivpore area of the city. The multiplex will have three auditoriums with recliner as well as normal seats fitted with latest sound system and silver screen. Besides the movie hall, it will also have a food court with entertainment zones which will attract the attention of children as well as adults. It has been customised to give a homely feel to the citizen of Kashmir, with its ceiling being designed in local ‘khatambandh’ style and ‘Kashmir’ featuring on the interior design. The food outlets are set to provide delectable Kashmiri cuisines. It will have a cumulative capacity of 520 persons at a time.
The first theatre in Kashmir came up in 1960s. Movie making and screening was a flourishing industry in Kashmir in the 1960s up until 1989, when a wave of forced Islamic Radicalization arrived in the valley sponsored from the neighbouring rougue nation Pakistan.
Prior to the era when cinema theatres seized to exist in Kashmir, the valley had a total of 19 cinema halls out of which Srinagar alone had nine theatres significantly one of them ‘The Broadway cinema’ being owned by Dhar family itself before it was burned down by radical extremists. The closure of cinema started with the rise of militancy in Kashmir in 1989. In Jan,1990 The terrorists issued a diktat labelling cinema and cinematography as un-Islamic and offensive after which all the cinema halls were forced to shut down and burned which were later occupied by Army and Paramilitary forces as their camp or operating base to drive out terrorism from valley.
Farooq Abdullah’s government in year 2000, tried to restore cinema theatres in Kashmir with the opening of Regel, Neelam and Broadway theatre but the first show itself was attacked by terrorists in Regel theatre which killed one and injured twelve and led to a seemingly permanent closure of cinema in the city.
The revolution of cinematic revival started with abrogation of the Article 370 in 2019, which made it possible to restore cinema culture once again in the Kashmir region.
The Government of Kashmir has promised to encourage and incentivise the owners of such cinema halls and multiplexes under J & K Industrial Policy 2021. The Jammu and Kashmir film development council (JKFDC) has also taken several initiatives to promote the growth of films in the region including giving subsidy upon incorporation of logo of the JKFDC. Kashmir world film festival (KWFF) which is being organised in Srinagar since 2017 also provided a major opening for the recent events.
Unlike in the 2000s, the security situations have definitely improved in the Kashmir but one thing is for sure that this won’t go down well with Hardliners as they are hostile to any sign of normalcy. Thus, it will pose a greater challenge to security of moviegoers which in turn will demand for the raised security in the vicinity too.
Just like Schools, and settlement homes for displaced Kashmiri Pandits, cinema too has been always considered as sign of normalcy, thus being on the receiving end of hardliners, it would arrive as a new beginning towards a normal, peaceful and developed Kashmir.
The security for the multiplexes would be a new challenge for police and forces in the valley. If in farther run this experiment becomes a success, it would pave the way for many more entertainment avenues to come up in the city enforcing the much needed job generation.
One can easily anticipate that in the near future, filming of movies in Kashmir will also restart which will greatly boost the quality of life. With an increase in cinematic tourism and other infrastructures the employment avenues, skill development, education, and per capita income will also increase for the youth of the Kashmir which will help it to alleviate terrorism right from its root.
The role of security forces becomes all the more conspicous, as they take up measures to spread awareness, like the Army did with huge success during the recent Har Ghar Tiranga campaign. Apart from work in the valley, the government should also promote a feeling of security for the entrepreneur class.
Since the abrogation of article 370, much has changed for people in the valley as they can now openly hoist tricolour and expect more entrepreneurs to consider investing in the valley and develop the infrastructure landscape of the city.
As Srinagar city is still an unexplored avenue and given the policy of J &K government to support industries and projects, the future looks bright and sunny for the growth of the region. Ensuring a solution for the problem of security will be fruitful in continuation of progress in the region rather than the usual standstill witnessed on the valley since decades.
The Changes taking place might seem small, but if Indian security agencies work together with the people of Kashmir, those days are not far when we can collectively achieve the much awaited dream of a demilitarized Kashmir. Inshallah….