Bollywood, the Mumbai-based film industry, plans a return to the scenic location of the Kashmir Valley, a mountainous region of lakes and meadows that was once a premier destination for the industry.
The return is set as top filmmakers and producers such as Ajay Devgn Films, Sanjay Dutt Productions, Reliance Entertainment, and Rohit Shetty Films last month scouted the region to explore potential filming locations.
Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha had taken the initiative further and had met with filmmakers – Ekta Kapoor, Dinesh Vijan, Imtiaz Ali, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and Nitesh Tiwari – in Mumbai on Sunday. Joshi reportedly invited them to revisit Kashmir for their future projects and also discussed with the filmmaking community how the process can be made more business friendly.
The latest film industry outreach came at a time when the tourism industry has rebounded modestly after remaining closed for almost two years.
Mushtaq Ahmed Chaya, who owns a hotel chain, is optimistic about the return of Bollywood. We welcome the returning film industry. This will have a positive impact on our tourism industry; it’s our job: when they come, hotels will be booked, shikaras, taxis and local shops will win, he says. Many people who have not been to Kashmir see this place in the movies and are drawn to it. It’s a good promotion.
Restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic had blocked many projects which also impacted local producers. Khawar Jamsheed, a Kashmir-based line producer, said that since a lot of pending work has been halted due to COVID-19, it will continue now. Now, if the situations remain normal, this industry will continue to grow, he said.
Jamsheed, who expanded his work to South India Tollywood, joined major Bollywood projects, including Raazi, as an executive producer. This industry is linked to tourism, he added, and has the potential to create jobs.
The film industry’s connection with Kashmir, however, dates back to the decade of the 1960s, when the scenic region became the scene of blockbusters.
The scenes that often identified an image of Kashmir were from the famous vintage movie Kashmir Ki Kali which starred Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore.
The old-fashioned romance that Bollywood found in Junglee, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Bobby, Silsila and Betaab was then carried on by up-and-coming producers who made films such as Rockstar, Highway, and Fitoor.
Kashmir has also been the backdrop for hyper-nationalist films, like Uri, a dramatic portrayal of the 2016 surgical strike. Over time, however, critics have often accused the industry of stereotyping the identity of Kashmiri Muslims in politically false dimensions.
Recent controversy erupted after a Biggboss Dollar Thermal commercial starring Manish Paul showed a Kashmir as a thief in the plot. Social media users were quick to speak out against stereotypes. The problem was then fueled by the visit of BiggBoss TV Show Fame Shehnaaz Gill, with rapper Badshah, for a music video shoot in Kashmir.
She uploaded a short video clip of her dancing to the song Bumbro Bumbro from the movie Mission Kashmir. Many Kashmiris called his video a stunt and accused it of cultural appropriation.
Nevertheless, Kashmir, despite its turbulent years, continues to attract Bollywood.
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