Bollywood’s love story with the picturesque Kashmir dates back to the 1960s and 70s. Shammi Kapoor immortalized the ‘shikara’ on Dal Lake in the song “Tareef karun kya uski” as he wooed a beautiful Sharmila Tagore in ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’. Back then, scores of films were set in the backdrop of the beautiful locales of the Valley. Some of the most romantic and evergreen songs were picturized in the snow-clad hills and lush green beauty of Kashmir. Films like ‘Jab Jab Phool Khile’ (1965), ‘Aarzoo’ (1965), ‘Janwar’ (1965), ‘Roti’ (1974), and ‘Mere Sanam’ (1965) etched a beautiful picture of the valley and, for those growing up in urban India, visiting Kashmir, the ‘Paradise on Earth’, became a dream. Filmmakers captured nature in its full glory and it eventually gave a boost to the tourism sector. People who could not feel the scenic Sonamarg meadows, Mughal Gardens, Gulmarg or Pahalgam, enjoyed their serenity through the lens of filmmakers. In late 1970s and early 80s, cinephiles witnessed Bollywood’s love affair with the beguiling beauty of Kashmir in superhits like ‘Kabhir Kabhie’ (1976), ‘Noorie’ (1979) and ‘Silsila’ (1981). However, by the 1990s, the region witnessed some of the most violent times and Kashmir found a new narrative in cinema. The stories got consumed by the tension in the Valley. Films like ‘Roja’ (1992) and ‘Dil Se’ (1998) were set against the backdrop of political turmoil in Kashmir. ‘Mission Kashmir’ (2000) and ‘Yahaan’ (2005) also showcased the unrest in the region. The growing unrest and rising tensions in the valley forced filmmakers to change their shooting destinations and with that the dreams of charming local lads determined to make a name in the film industry also vanished.
There was a time during the 60s and 70s, when perpetually every big Bollywood film used to shoot at least one song, if not a whole schedule in the exotic locales of Kashmir. But the days of Shammi Kapoor yelling ‘Yahoo! ’and serenading Sharmila Tagore on Dal Lake in ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’ was part of a distant but beautiful memory. That doesn’t mean that the good old days can’t be back again.
“Indian film industry is rekindling its romance with Kashmir – a destination once a favorite of the filmmakers and the audience alike. Soon, the valley will have the cameras set on its blooming tulips, placid lakes, coniferous trees and the Dal Lake. Earlier this year, Aamir Khan who has just shot a portion of ‘Laal Singh Chadha’ in the region was in the picturesque valley to launch Jammu & Kashmir’s Film Policy, along with Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha”
Under this new policy drafted to promote the overall growth of the film industry in the Union Territory-‘The Jammu and Kashmir Film Development Council’ will be set up which will facilitate the development of shooting locales, focus on destination marketing, organize the Jammu and Kashmir Film Festival and also turn their attention towards the restoration and preservation of films from the region. It will also provide infrastructure for film screenings by reviving closed cinema halls, upgrading existing cinema halls, and encouraging the setting up of multiplexes and cinema halls.
Taking a lead in this initiative Indian Army is inviting renowned videographers and photographers and is organizing workshops for the youth of the valley wherein the youth is being imparted with the important lessons of photography and videography which will come handy in times to come. It’s a monumental effort to bring back film shoots to Kashmir, a sort of throwing-the-kitchen-sink effort at reviving Kashmir’s glory days.
Over the years, the beautiful valley has provided a backdrop for innumerable Hindi films, more often than not, meshing itself into the narrative so irreplaceably, it is difficult to imagine the film being shot elsewhere. Can you picture Amitabh Bachchan going ‘Kabhie Kabhie Mere Dil Mein ’ anywhere other than against the stark and secluded backdrop of Kashmir? Would Haider’s ‘Hello Hello Hello ’speech be half as impactful if not complemented by the deserted streets of the valley? The more recent Bollywood outings ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike ’and ‘Shershaah’, too, once again capture Kashmir in all its glory, even as deadly army missions play out in the foreground. Kashmir will now be on the international tourism map again and film shoots will not only generate employment for the people of the Valley but also invite thousands of tourists from worldwide to bask in the glory of this blessed land.