Imtiaz Ali, Ekta Kapoor, others propose website on Kashmir locales
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU: Days after a series of visits to the valley by a number of the Bollywood actors and producers, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha had an extensive interaction with a galaxy of the celebrities at Hotel Taj Santacruz in Mumbai on Sunday.Officials in the LG’s entourage said that most of the guests from the cineworld told Mr Sinha that they were keen to revive the culture and atmosphere of the Bollywood film shooting which existed and flourished in Kashmir for 50 years from 1940 to 1990. It was only after the outbreak of an armed insurgency that Bollywood bade goodbye to the valley and all the 18-odd cinema theatres were closed down permanently on 31 August 1989.A light-and-sound show, made by Chetan Anand, Kamal Amrohi and others for India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) also pulled crowds for its evening shows at the historic Mughal garden, Shalimar Bagh, near Srinagar for several years in the 1980s.In 1991-92, eminent South Indian filmmaker Mani Ratnam wanted to shoot his magnum opus ‘Roja’ in Kashmir but hugely disturbing circumstances forced him to shift to Coonoor and Ooty in Tamil Nadu and some locations resembling to Kashmir in Manali, Himachal Pradesh.Years later in 1998, Bollywood’s Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who was a permanent resident in Wazirbagh neighbourhood of Srinagar before 1990, shot his Bobby Deol-Shabana Raza starrer ‘Kareeb’ at different places in Kashmir. In 1999-2000, Chopra succeeded to shoot many sequences of ‘Mission Kashmir’ in the valley. Even the last best known ‘Shikara’ – a love story running parallel to the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits and their traumatised living in exile-was also from none other than Chopra in 2019. It was released on 7 January 2020.Over a dozen Bollywood and South Indian films were shot in Kashmir in the last 31 years of turmoil but the aura of the halcyon days of 1950s to 1980s is still missing. Now the Union Territory government is making efforts at different levels to attract filmmakers, producers and artists for shooting in the valley. During the course of the session, Ekta Kapoor recollected how she and her mother used to accompany her father Jeetendra on his shooting schedules in the pre-1990 years in Kashmir.Those were the good old days when Kashmir used to be on the itinerary of every big producer. Or almost so! Why, films had titles like Kashmir Ki Kali. And then, bullets of terrorists in the valleys of Kashmir replaced the beauty which the region was known for.Mission Kashmir focused on that ugly side of Kashmir which everyone would wish away as a horrific dream. Bollywood missed Kashmir all these years. Of course, an occasional Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani or Jab Tak Hai Jaan or Raazi or Fitoor or Aiyaary or Bajrangi Bhaijaan or Haider or Highway were shot there but shootings in the valley were few and far between. And unlike the super-hit song from Aandhi, those who have not been able to shoot in the picturesque valleys of the region in the last over two decades are apt to sing, Tere bina zindagi se shikwa toh tha!Well, all that may soon be a thing of the past. For, Kashmir may very soon be hosting film units once again after being almost wiped out from the wish list of producers since more than twenty years. Ekta recalled, “I have very fond childhood memories of Kashmir as at least a fortnight every summer had to be spent there. My dad’s (Jeetendra) films used to be regularly shot there and so it was almost mandatory for the family to spend a part of the summer vacations with dad there. The fact that we are sitting here with you, discussing the possibility of shooting in Kashmir, gives me immense joy.”Filmmaker Imtiaz Ali, whose Laila Majnu (2018) was among the very few Bollywood films to be shot in Kashmir in the new millennium, averred that his experience in the valley was fantastic. He added, he was ecstatic that it would be possible to shoot in Kashmir in a very safe atmosphere. He told Mr Sinha and LG’s Principal Secretary Nitishwar Kumar that the people of Kashmir were very cooperative, which had added to the energy level of the crew. Producer Dinesh Vijan requested Sinha and Kumar to formulate a policy for producers, based on the policies of some other state governments in India or Overseas countries like the UK.Director Nitesh Tiwari made a valid point when he said that students of the film school of Gulmarg could assist filmmakers shooting their films in Kashmir so that they can learn on the field. He recalled how students of advertising used to assist ad filmmakers like him and also double up as production hands serving the unit tea etc. when he used to make ad films.Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari recalled her wonderful experiences of shooting Panga in Bhopal, “often at places which would never, in normal circumstances, be given to film crews to shoot at”. She also referred to how she insisted on local caterers taking care of their breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. “There were teething troubles but it was smooth sailing after the initial hiccups,” she smiled, adding, “But imagine, we got to eat authentic local delicacies prepared with so much love. In this way, not only were we happy but the locals earned money too.”Manoj Sinha was insistent that a happy picture of Kashmir went out to the world through the films shot there as that would fuel tourism in the valley. People’s confidence in Jammu & Kashmir needs to be got back and, as trade analyst Komal Nahta emphasised, “There’s no greater potent medium than films to influence the public and revive their confidence in the safety of Kashmir as a tourist spot.”Vijan came up with a good suggestion when he said, the Kashmir government should ask some well-known filmmakers of Bollywood to make short films (of, perhaps, 30 to 50 minutes’ duration), highlighting the different aspects of Kashmir so that people’s faith in the region gets a major boost.Nitesh Tiwari suggested that a dedicated website be made to give producers and directors a feel of the real Kashmir today – its streets, houses, balconies in the houses, surroundings available, etc. “This will help the filmmakers decide what all can be shot in the region,” he averred. Imtiaz Ali added, “Rather than just shooting a stand-alone song in Kashmir, we have to make our characters belong to Kashmir. That’s when Kashmir will become an integral part of that film.” Vijan continued, “And that’s when tourism in Jammu & Kashmir will get the biggest boost.”Manoj Sinha and Nitishwar Kumar made mental and physical notes of all the points put forward by the Bollywood representatives. Karan Johar and Rohit Shetty, spoke to Sinha over the telephone and assured him that they would be more than happy to shoot in the region. In fact, both, Dinesh Vijan and Ekta Kapoor, requested Sinha to make the atmosphere very conducive for shootings. “If you take good care of us, Sir, we will be more than happy to shoot there.”Vijan also emphasised on the need to have a subsidy scheme in place to lure Bollywood producers to Kashmir. Nitesh Tiwari sounded pretty optimistic when he assured Sinha, “Not just Bollywood producers, you will have a lot of ad filmmakers too coming to shoot in Kashmir.” All the producers and directors present at the meeting insisted that there should be a single-window clearance system so that film units can plan and execute their shootings smoothly and without waste of time and red tape.The LG was in Bombay to attend a wedding, and he made the most of the opportunity by planning the meeting with active Bollywood producers and directors. That so many top names attended the meeting at such short notice speaks volumes for the efficiency of Jain and Tripathi as much as for the wave of excitement among Bollywood people that there would soon be many more Kashmir ki kalis blossoming on the Hindi screen. Let ‘Mission Shooting In Kashmir’ begin!
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