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Kashmir - Yesterday once more

February 7, 2008 8:08:05 PM IST
Rajesh Bhat, TWF, Bollywood Trade News Network
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Time was when outdoor shoots for the song and dance sequences of Bollywood were inevitably shot in Kashmir. But then things changed. With the situation in the Valley improving now, a new film, DAASTAN, is being shot here and give hope to the local people about a turn around. Rajesh Bhat reports

This winter, the picturesque town of Pahalgam on the banks of gushing Lidder River in South Kashmir was nostalgically back in the news. The stars again descended on the behest on earth to capture in camera the beauty of the land. Giving lead was the son of the soil, Anupam Kher whose home-coming was an occasion of celebration for the local people.

When cinematographer Santosh Shivan was spotted along with versatile Rahul Bose, Sarika and Kher in the woody plains of Pahalgam this December, it was definitely a Mahurat of a new era in the valley. The people sensed that Bollywood may have rediscovered Kashmir after staying away for more than two decades.

Next morning, local newspapers carried a story on Anupam Kher's home-coming after 21 years and credited him for trying to bring Kashmir back to the big screen while roping in ace Santosh Shivan to capture the beauty of Kashmir in his new venture DAASTAN.

By afternoon, cinema-crazy locals gathered in Pahalgam to have a glimpse of the stars who were camping in the town. One day Kher, Bose and crew members got trapped on the hilly tract leading to the shrine of Amarnath at Chandanwari while shooting the snowfall. Thanks to the enthusiastic fans people and the Police, they were rescued in time.

Indeed, it was a new experience for Pahalgam to see Kher in a typical Kashmiri Phiran on the sets though he declined to reveal the plot. Abdul Jabbar of village Dilseer-Pahalgam, who watched the shoot, sensed that DAASTAN could be a plot woven around the culture, ethos and traditions of Kashmir. Leading Kashmiri singer Gulzar Ahmad Ganai and his accompanists, who have also a role in the film for a Sufiana composition, are optimistic that Kher's home-coming as an actor would pave the way for new interest in Bollywood, convincing them that Kashmir is no longer a forbidden land. Time was when Kashmir was the chosen land for outdoor shoots of Hindi and other language films. Perhaps films like yesteryear hits like AARZOO, AAN MILO SAJNA and SILSILA can again be shot in the valley without moving to Switzerland or Manali in Himachal Pradesh.

Kashmir's officials are optimistic that DAASTAN and other films, if shot in Kashmir, will boost the state's economy, particularly of those dependent on tourism sector. 'This would also help in allaying the misconceptions about the situation in Kashmir,' reiterates Farooq Ahmad, director, Tourism Kashmir.

The administration, however, preferred to keep the event low profile fearing militant backlash. And not without reason either. In 1990, militant organizations had ordered theatre halls in Kashmir valley to be closed down. While some of them, including Palladium Hall in Srinagar and Samad Talkies in Sopore were razed to the ground, others like Shah Cinema, Khayam and Shiraz which had survived the grenade attacks, are presently under the occupation of the security forces. In entire Kashmir, only one civilian cinema hall, Neelam, is now holding shows. It was re-opened by the proprietors in the high security zone of Karan Nagar once they began to feel a change in the situation.

It was really a day of ecstasy for Mohd Maqbool Dar of Sopore-Kashmir when he came to know that Bollywood actors were back in the valley. Recalling those golden years from 1960 to 1990 when over 90 Hindi films were shot in Kashmir, Dar recalls that it was the Ningal area of Sopore near Wullar Lake where late Sunil Dutt had come for the shooting of Hindi film CHIRAG.

"I have witnessed the shooting of Sunny Deol's BETAAB in Pahalgam. This December, it was nice to see Rahul Bose and Sarika at the same place where Shammi Kapoor, Sadhna, Mumtaz and Rajendra Kumar had featured in the picturisation of so many hit songs," recalls Mohd Aslam. He went down the memory lane and listened once again to old film songs from hits like ROTI, shot in Kashmir, starring Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz.

The list of films featuring Kashmir is long, Aslam says. Some of them easily come to mind: DO BADAN, AAP AAYE BAHAR AAYE, JUNGLEE, KALIA, KABHI-KABHI, SILSILA, KHUDAAR, JAB JAB PHOOL KHILE, ROCKEY, BAAZI ETC.

During 1990 to 2006, some Hindi films like ROJA with the Kashmir background were produced but the shooting was primarily done in other hill stations resembling Kashmir. If all goes well, DAASTAN will be the first Hindi film in post-militancy era to be entirely shot in Kashmir. Its producers are again visiting Kashmir this summer to capture more of Kashmir.

Art lovers and cinegoers in Kashmir also compare old Bollywood hits like KASHMIR KI KALI (with Sharmila Tagore and Shammi Kapoor) with the present ones like DILWALE DULHANIYA LE JAYEENGE shot in Switzerland. 'Actors like Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna or Amitabh Bachchan were lucky to have a number of romantic scenes in the snow clad hills and moving in the lush green plains of Kashmir. The Khans- Shahrukh, Salman or Aamir, were not as lucky as situation in Kashmir deprived them of being a part of the valley in the peak of their careers', according to Majid, a university student.

Sunil Kaul, an employee of Radio Kashmir believes that apart from their talent, it was Kashmir that added to the aura of some of the actors who began their careers at that time. 'How can people forget Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia's maiden appearance on the big screen in Bobby when they lost a key and were trapped in a guest House of Pahalgam with Shailendra Singh singing his all-time famous song, Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mein Bandh Hain Aur Chhabi Kho Jaye? Or just recall first timers Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh in BETAAB of 1983, again shot in Pahalgam. That spot is still known as Betaab Valley'.

But then if Bollywood stayed away from Kashmir all these years, local producers were not to be deterred. They made a remix of SHOLAY with Gabbar Singh, Veeru and Kalia characters speaking typical Kashmiri branding it as NEW SHOLAY. Its popularity bears testimony to the fact that the entertainment-starved people of Kashmir can go to any length to watch a film, no matter what's its quality. It has also convinced people that Kashmiris yearn to be a part of the ever increasing reach and popularity of Hindi film industry again. But the moot question is, are the bigwigs of the film industry ready to listen?


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