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Transforming J&K: Bollywood rekindles romance with JK as film makers find picture-perfect

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JAMMU: Jammu and Kashmir known for its breathtaking beauty and incredible landscape dotted with meadows, valleys, high altitude passes, dense forests, lakes, apple orchards, snow capped peaks, provide just the picture perfect for shooting a film.
Several movies have been shot in this beautiful region blessed with magnificent scenic splendor, with film tourism in Jammu and Kashmir remaining as popular as ever.
The Indian film industry is rekindling its romance with Kashmir, a destination once a favorite of filmmakers and the audience alike. Soon, the Valley witnessed the cameras set on its blooming tulips, placid lakes, coniferous trees and the Dal Lake.
Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha, has met Bollywood filmmakers including Ekta Kapoor, Dinesh Vijan, Imtiaz Ali, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and Nitesh Tiwari among others in Mumbai. He invited them to shoot in the Valley and also discussed how the shooting of films can be made business-friendly in the Union Territory.
The concept aims to bring back the lost glory of the valley through benefits to the local artists, including dancers, fashion designers, actors, choreographers, cinematographers, sound recordists, set designers and others.
Bollywood’s love affair with the picturesque Kashmir dates back to the 1960’s and 70’s. 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 locales of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1961, Shammi Kapoor romanced Saira Banu in the snow-capped mountains in Srinagar as he sang “Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe”. He immortalized the ‘Shikara’ on the Dal Lake in the song “Tareef karun kya uski” as he wooed a beautiful Sharmila Tagore in Kashmir Ki Kali (1964).
In the late 1970s and early 80s, cinephiles witnessed Yash Chopra’s love affair with the beguiling beauty of Kashmir in superhits like Kabhi Kabhi (1976), Noorie (1979) and Silsila (1981). Everybody remembers the movie Betaab, starring Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh, the movie and its location was such a hit with the audience, that the Valley, which was earlier known as Hagan Valley, was renamed as Betaab Valley.
Several scenes from another famous movie in 1973, Bobby, was shot in a hut, with the result it was renamed Bobby Hut.
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. Kunal Kohli, whose film ‘Fanaa’ was based in Kashmir, could not shoot there. Mani Ratnam’s Roja (1992) and Dil Se (1998) was set against the backdrop of political turmoil in Kashmir. Mission Kashmir (2000) and Yahaan (2005) also showcased the unrest in the region. However, the rising tensions there forced filmmakers to shoot elsewhere even as they ostensibly showed Kashmir, a case in point being Roja. Mani Ratnam had planned to shoot the film in Kashmir but ended up shifting it to Coonoor, Ooty and Manali.
Eventually, film producers and directors became hesitant to shift base to the Valley as a sense of fear and uncertainty engulfed Bollywood’s once favourite backdrop. They preferred to shoot in various other regions of the country and also on the foreign shores. The exquisite locales of Ooty formed the backdrop for many other Bollywood films like Hum Aapke Hain Koun!, Maine Pyar Kiya, Deewana and Dil Se.
Also, touristy landmarks of London, Paris, New York and Switzerland replaced Sonamarg, Srinagar, Gulmarg and Pahalgam.
But, now that the film directors and producers plan to return to the bay, we revisit some recent films that were shot in Kashmir.
The Kabir Khan directorial Bajrangi Bhaijaan starring Salman Khan in the lead role was shot at picturesque locations across the Valley including at the famous resorts of Pahalgam and Gulmarg. The song “Bhar Do Jholi Meri” was shot at a famous shrine in Ashmuqam area of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. While shooting for the film, Salman had written on Twitter, “KASHMIR bahut AMEER in natural beauty… Maashallah Maashallah.” The climax of Bajrangi Bhaijaan was shot at Sonmarg near the Thajiwas glacier.
Action-driven films like ‘Shershaah’ has renewed the interest in border conflicts and it seems like the Indian audiences have an insatiable appetite when it comes to patriotic stories. The ‘Shershaah’ story is based in Kargil and it was shot in the mountains of Kashmir.
Aamir Khan (who’s just shot a portion of ‘Laal Singh Chadha’ in Ladakh) and Rajkumar Hirani (who shot a segment of ‘3 Idiots’ in the same location), were in the picturesque UT to launch Jammu and Kashmir’s Film Policy, along with Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha. Under this new policy, drafted to promote overall growth of film industry in the Union Territory, the Jammu and Kashmir Film Development Council will be set up.
The J&K government will incentivize owners to reopen closed cinema halls, upgrade the existing ones and encourage setting up of multiplexes, besides offering a slew of subsidies to establish the UT as the first choice for filmmakers as a shooting destination.
The officials aim to facilitate development of shooting locales, focus on destination marketing, organize the J&K film festival and also turn their attention towards restoration and preservation of films from the region.
They have promised to provide infrastructure for film screenings by reviving closed cinema halls, upgrading existing cinema halls and encouraging the setting up of multiplexes and cinema halls besides offering a slew of subsidies to establish the UT as the first choice for filmmakers as a shooting destination. 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.
“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”.


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