Opening of cinema theatres and screening of movies is a normal activity in all parts of the country, but in Kashmir it is heralding of an entertainment revolution as it brings oases into sight in the desert of the entertainment-starved Valley.
This change has been set in motion to regain the mental and physical space from the conflict-perpetuating forces, active in the Valley for the past over three decades, to tell the people, especially the youth, that there is a world of creativity, which can enrich and provide a spark to let their talent come out. This is a gain for the nation, and in truer sense that Kashmir, its talent and energy of youth are assets to the Indian nation. It is just not the reversal of times to peace era but also scripting of history where history is writing itself with youth of the Valley in the center as real heroes.
In the pace of last four days, six cinema theatres – two in south Kashmir’s Pulwama and Shopian districts – and one multiplex housing three theatres in the capital city of Srinagar have opened. These are being billed as reversal of the times by more than 32 years when the cinema theatres were not only the sources of entertainment, but also a point of family outing, and days-long discussions on various aspects of the movies. Kashmir is known for its creativity, as also critical appreciation of the creative works, movies, their themes, songs, literature, artworks, including paintings. It is also instinctive as Kashmir is nestled in unmatched beauty. Their eye for beauty and its appreciation is unparalleled.
Unfortunately, the cinema theatres in Kashmir were seen by the Islamic radicals and terrorists as an antidote to their idea of pure Islam and, what they called “liberation struggle” through guns and bombs. This was their way of taking peoples’ minds and emotions as hostage to their single-minded obsession with violent extremism. A well-thought-out strategy devised by ISI of Pakistan, executed by the terror outfits, was played out to tell the people that they needed to discard all the sources of entertainment, sports and all that which took them to excel in the world, for them, the ISI had started a game plan of restricting their world to guns and killings. All the good options were closed by the force of guns.
A reversal of the bad old times is at work. First, due to the will power of the government of the day – the UT administration under the leadership of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha , who is working day in and day out to put into reality the mission envisaged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to inspire the youth to turn back on the bad things and rejoin the normal life. The task before the government is to open prospects of bright future to the youth.
LG Sinha has unveiled a three-pronged strategy; to invoke nostalgic times of Kashmir of the pre-1989 era when Kashmir was an icon of peace, tour and travel and one of the best holidaying destinations, where entertainment was seen in picnics, cinema theatres and stage , paintings, literature, literary and cultural seminars. Cinema theatres were reflective of the convergence of the films shot in the Valley and their screening all across the country and their own land. There was an instant connect between the valley where the films were made and also the screening of the films. Kashmiri audience were also fond of watching Hollywood movies, and often drew parallels between their own place and the beauty of other places in the world.
The generation of elders is gripped with this nostalgia, the family ties are being sought to be revived through the medium of the cinema theatre. Second, it is to tell the people that while in Pakistan and other Islamic countries, the cinema is retained as a big source of entertainment, why should Kashmir stay aloof from that. Third, the idea is , why view the movies on eye-straining mini-to mini-screens on phones, or at best on laptops, and why not to enjoy the movies in the comfort of big seats in the air-conditioned theatres .
This entertainment revolution negates the idea of conflict, and it also opens opportunities to excel. It was not just a coincidence that, in Pulwama, the multipurpose cinema hall was inaugurated by screening of an inspiring story of “ Bhag Milkha Bhag” – that how a boy traumatized by Partition makes his name in sports at the international level. The idea was to tell the youth in Kashmir that they too can do it. It is revolution in that sense.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, and The Tribune. He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with those of prameyanews.com.