English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

J&K Govt offers huge incentives for revival of cinema in Kashmir

The Government of Jammu and Kashmir unveiled its first Film Policy (Pic: Courtesy thekashmirpress.com)

In its first Film Policy unveiled by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, the government of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has offered substantial handholding, subsidies and incentives to the stakeholders for revival of the cinema in the Kashmir valley. Almost all the extraordinary benefits of the previously unfolded Jammu and Kashmir Industrial Policy 2021 have been extended to the aspirants building infrastructure or interested in acting, shooting, editing and screening of films in the valley.

With 18 cinema theatres functioning for decades in Srinagar, Sopore, Baramulla and Anantnag, cinema and all other means of modernity and entertainment were banned and closed down permanently under gun point by different guerrilla groups and their overground supporters, notably Asiya Andrabi of Dukharaan-e-Millat and ‘Air Marshal’ Noor Khan of Allah Tigers in 1989. The cinema owners converted their theatres into hospitals and other business units and no film was screened after the final ‘deadline’ of 31 December 1989—19 days before Farooq Abdullah resigned as Chief Minister and Jagmohan took over as Governor.

Nearly 7 years later, when the National Conference (NC) returned to power, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah managed to open three particular theatres—Broadway, Regal and Neelum. But his endeavour proved to be short-lived as terrorists lobbed a grenade on Regal and an encounter took place between the militants and security forces at Neelum.

Even as more than 30 films have been shot in Kashmir in the last 31 years of the armed insurgency and terrorism, the people of Kashmir can watch a film only on their smartphones or television. The only other option for them is to travel to the winter capital of Jammu or any other city across the country where they often enjoy watching a Bollywood movie on the big screen. Several multiplexes, including Wave and PVR, have come up in Jammu in the last 15 years.

Also Read: Aamir Khan leads Bollywood’s return to Kashmir as winds of change blow across valley

“In the present times, television and other means of entertainment are vying with films to grab the attention of viewers. This has resulted in a sharp fall in the number of film goers which has forced the closure of the cinema halls, and many existing cinema halls are on the verge of closure. To bring back the public into the cinema halls it is imperative to have high-grade facilities in film screening halls. The modern Cinema Theatre should be able to provide a unique experience which otherwise is not available while watching movies at home”, reads the chapter on ‘Infrastructure for film screening’ in J&K’s Film Policy-2021.

The policy draft says that a three-pronged strategy would be adopted with thrust on ‘revival of closed cinema halls, upgradation of existing cinema halls and encouraging setting up of multiplexes and cinema’.

“The Government of Jammu & Kashmir shall encourage and incentivise owners to reopen closed cinema halls. All the incentives to such units shall be governed under the provisions of J&K Industrial Policy 2021,” says the policy draft.

“For promoting film viewing in the cinema halls, it is important to modernize and upgrade the facilities and technologies available in the existing cinema halls. The Government of J&K shall encourage the owners of the cinema halls to create modern amenities by way of various incentives. All the incentives to such units shall be governed under the provisions of J&K Industrial Policy 2021”, the draft asserts, making clear that all the special incentives of the already announced industrial policy would be extended to encourage setting up of multiplexes and cinema halls.

Militants, separatists and their politico-intellectual ecosystem have been strongly opposing anything that portrays Kashmir as ‘normal’. They have been bitterly critical of promoting the entertainment industry including literary festivals and music concerts. While some female artists were either shot dead or left injured by militants, clergymen on certain occasions issued fatwas to discourage, excommunicate and terrorise the people defying such diktats.

Days after the organisers of the Jaipur Litfest announced to hold a ‘non-political’ literary festival in Srinagar in the year 2011, authors Basharat Peer and Mirza Waheed were the first to resist the idea. They wanted discussions on the 'political discourse' behind their works of fiction.

"How can authors who tell the story of abuses of power or the suffering of people in Kashmir be part of such an event? I would rather go to a jail in Srinagar and read my book to the young people who are still imprisoned there," Peer, the author of Curfewed Night and an opinion editor with The New York Times in Istanbul, told The Guardian.

London-based Mirza Waheed, whose first novel, The Collaborator, was published to critical acclaim that year, told the same newspaper: "The organisers have said the event will be apolitical. So what would I do if I was there? What would I read? Every page I have written is political.”

As everybody fears for life in the valley of guns and grenades that determine and control the political narratives, no literary festival was possible in Kashmir in the next 10 years.

In 2013, Peer himself faced hostile crowds during the shooting of his film at the University of Kashmir campuses. With the Bollywood producer Vishal Bhardwaj, he had scripted Haider, the Indian adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Their crew was forced to wind up when a scene with the Indian national flag was being filmed at the campus in Hazratbal.

On 24 December 2013, Aneeka Khalid along with her Class 10 friends Farah Deeba, and Noma Nazir, unveiled the valley’s first all-girl rock band with a daring performance at an indoor stadium. A Facebook page titled the event: "Personally, I consider them as shameless and spoiled brats?" In a couple of days, grand Mufti Bashiruddin issued a fatwa that shut the band down for infinity.

Early this year, a music concert was aborted in the middle of the show when a hostile crowd attacked the artists at Badamwari, in Srinagar.