After decades of terror, Valley gets 2 cinema halls

Srinagar: Pulwama and Shopian, which with two other South Kashmir districts Kulgam and Anantnag, have over the years been known as the hotbed of militancy, on Sunday got two multipurpose cinema houses, which apart from screening of movies, offer infotainment and various skill development facilities for young people.

The Kashmir Valley’s first multiplex will be thrown open in Srinagar’s Shivpora area by the lieutenant-governor on Tuesday. This will be followed by a special screening of Laal Singh Chaddha, the comedy-drama film directed by Advait Chandan from a screenplay by Eric Roth and Atul Kulkarni. J&K lieutenant-governor Manoj Sinha, after inaugurating these cinema houses, termed it a historic day for Jammu and Kashmir and said such multipurpose cinema halls will be opened in every district of the Union territory. He also said efforts were on to provide all other facilities to the youth of J&K, apart from providing them more job opportunities.

He said: “The youth of J&K are very much talented, and it is being ensured that they do get platforms to showcase their talent.” He added: “Under ‘Mission Youth’, it has been decided to open multipurpose cinema halls in every district, and today one each in Pulwama and Shopian have been made available for the public so that they, especially the youth, can benefit from these.”

Official sources said such cinema halls will also be opened in Anantnag, Srinagar, Bandipora, Ganderbal, Doda, Rajouri, Poonch, Kishtwar and Reasi districts of the UT.

After the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, the government and other stakeholders began making a fresh effort at reviving cinemas in the restive Kashmir Valley. A multiplex is coming up in Srinagar and the government is planning to reopen all existing cinema houses and help in the construction of new ones in and outside the capital Srinagar.

Mr Sinha had said in October last year that the government was making an all-out effort to resuscitate film and cinema in Kashmir and create a vibrant film ecosystem to bring back the “golden era” of filmmaking in J&K and transform it into the most preferred film destination.

In 1990, when the Kashmir “freedom struggle” led to major violence, all cinema houses, theatres and other sources of entertainment in the predominantly Muslim Valley were shut in response to a diktat issued by the separatists. Soon some of the cinema houses were occupied by the security forces reinforcements sent in from different parts of the country to crush the rebellion. While a few of these continue to be occupied by them, the rest remain abandoned and are in dilapidated condition or have been converted into hospitals or shopping malls.
Almost 10 years later, the government had offered financial assistance of around Rs 1 crore to the owners to encourage them to renovate and reopen the theatres.

Of more than a dozen theatres, only three —Broadway, Regal and Neelam — in Srinagar availed of it and began to screen movies. But soon a grenade attack outside Regal, which killed a couple of cinema goers, led to their closure again.

On Sunday, Mr Sinha said that cinema is a powerful creative medium which reflects culture, values and aspirations of the people, opens the door to the world of knowledge and new discoveries and enables people to get a better understanding of each-other’s culture.

An official spokesman said that the new film policy introduced by the government last year seeks to promote the overall growth of the film industry in the UT, setting up of J&K Film Development Council and providing hands-on access to websites for talent pool and all shooting destinations. It will also facilitate the development of shooting locales, infrastructure for film screening, revival of closed cinema halls, upgrading existing cinema halls, encouraging setting up of multiplexes, destination marketing, organising the J&K film festival, and restoration and preservation of films from the region, he added.

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