By Farooq Wani,
Bollywood has had a decades old connection with Kashmir, an association born out of the film industry’s fascination with the picturesque scenery of what’s rightly referred to as ‘paradise on earth’. In olden days when the means of communication were both primitive and scarce, advertising of Kashmir as a tourist destination was limited to photos in magazines and first-hand accounts of those few who had visited this place. However, both had its own limitations- while photography in those days couldn’t do real justice to the subject, hearing someone talking about Kashmir’s beauty was often brushed aside as exaggeration arising out of the desire to ‘show-off’.
There is a saying “seeing is believing” and that’s why the major credit for making Kashmir a popular tourist destination goes to Bollywood, which captured its unparalleled beauty on film and presented it to audiences belonging to all sections of society throughout the country. Since some of the most popular romantic movies were filmed in Kashmir, this place gradually came to be associated with good times as well as love and affection and this added to Kashmir’s charm. Many super hits like Junglee, Arzoo, Kashmir ki Kali, Jab-Jab Phool Khilen and Bobby were filmed in whole or part in Kashmir and with every super hit the number of tourists increased.
Thus, in addition to its majestic beauty, Dal Lake also reminded tourists of the famous Shammi Kapoor “Yeh chand sa roshan chehra, zulfonka rang sunehera” song and after release of Bobby there was a mad rush of tourists who wanted to catch a glimpse of Room 305 of Hotel Highland Park in Gulmarg, where the famous Bobby song ‘Hum tum, ek kamre mein band hon, aur chabi kho jaye” was filmed. Similarly, the Maharani Temple in Gulmarg where the hit song ‘Jai Jai Shiv Shankar,’ of the hit movie ‘Aap Ki Kasam’ was filmed became a popular tourist destination.
Unfortunately, eruption of militancy in Kashmir cast an evil spell on the tourism industry and the Valley, which once resounded with the hustle and bustle of tourists, became a forlorn place. As time passed and militancy entrenched itself, Kashmir lost its connection with Bollywood for nearly three decades. Luckily, Bollywood got back to the picturesque Betaab Valley in 2011, when Imtiaz Ali took a chance and shot his Ranbir Kapoor starrer masterpiece ‘Rockstar’, which turned out to be a big hit. Though movies have been filmed in Kashmir thereafter, it was a far cry from the yesteryears.
With normalcy returning J&K Govt is now exploring various options to revive Bollywood connections with Kashmir. However, it takes time to change people’s perception and the government is determined to leave no stone unturned in doing so, because Bollywood is the best tourism brand ambassador. Kashmir’s main industry is tourism, which has taken a very bad hit due to militancy and resulted in loss of thousands and thousands of jobs. Due to Govt efforts some top cine production houses have visited various locations in Valley for shooting of films and the good response from film-makers has come as a big respite to those associated with the tourism industry. It is heartening to note that regional entertainment houses for shooting song sequences have also arrived here.
The Producers Guild has praised the beauty of Kashmir and expressed keen desire to shoot for their upcoming film projects at various locations in Kashmir. Mumbai based Kashmir born multi-faceted music director, singer and founder of Music Company “A R Music studios” Jaan Nissar Lone with co-founder Rani Hazarika landed in Kashmir to shoot a music video album titled “Mere Ali Maula Ali”. Based on revival of Sufi culture of Kashmir, this Album is a Sufi-influenced composition of four to five songs written by Niteshwar Kumar, Principal Secretary to J&K UT LG JK Manoj Sinha and Tanveer Ghazi who wrote songs for popular Bollywood hero Amitabh Bachchan starrer ‘PINK’. Versatile playback Singer Richa Sharma, who has many hit Bollywood Sufi songs to her name has lent her voice to this album.
“The idea is to show the composite culture of Kashmir to the world in this video. The music of the album promotes ethnic Kashmiri music. We want to show the world how Kashmir can be another Switzerland,” said Jaan. He observed that since the vast pool of talent found in J&K is diverse and encompasses every sphere of cinematic requirements, it would take us nothing to search and Kashmiris are full of talent. “They are packed with talent on every front but what they need is the right platform and guidance,” said Jaan, adding that “I will try promoting them to my best.”
These songs also feature young Kashmiris like Kaif Peerzada, Mir Anjum, Atif Malik , Bollywood actress Aysha Kapoor and child artist Master Rah . These songs have been directed by Jaan Nissar Lone and the project has been designed and supervised by Bollywood playback singer Rani Hazarika. The unit shot at locations like Dal Lake (King of Sea Group of House Boats) and in Sufi Shrines of Srinagar.
If you still haven’t explored this pristine valley in Kashmir, you definitely are missing out on a magical experience. Kashmir is the perfect location for film shooting and makes a perfect view itself. I think more film units need to visit here and shoot so as to give a boost to the local tourism and the people involved in film shootings and to promote Kashmiri talent is Jaan’s clear message to the Bollywood fraternity.
(The author is Editor of Brighter Kashmir, Columnist, TV Commentator and Political Analyst. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online. He can be reached at: [email protected] )