Kashmir: A Long Forgotten Bollywood Love Affair

— Dishari De

Kashmir, a word that raises many questions and creates many pictures, depending on one’s individual perspective. However, in the midst of all the insurgency and unrest, all the picturesque valley’s attraction, we seem to forget one thing – the love affair of Bollywood with the heavenly abode called Kashmir. Do we remember the last time a commercially successful Bollywood film was based on Kashmir? All I can remember is Haider back in 2014 and then Tubelight was made in the backdrop of Kashmir but I personally don’t feel the movie was able to truly capture its essence.

So, have we forgotten about the place, or is it so sensitive to talk about Kashmir that the mainstream movie makers are carefully avoiding it? Because, in sane mind one cannot believe that there is not enough content to talk about Kashmir. Let us first look at how Bollywood’s love affair with Kashmir changed with time.

The names Gulmarg, Pehelgaon, Sonemarg, Srinagar started gaining popularity among the Bollywood buffs around the late 60s as romantic destinations. Almost all the Indian film industries chose Kashmir as the backdrop for the picturization of their romantic songs. “Kashmir”, the word, became synonymous with romance back then. Kashmir Ki Kali was the first prominent love story that came about and made it a popular romantic destination. Shammi Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore and the backdrop of beautiful Kashmir, what more could the Indian population need? Especially in an era where all ideas of romance in India were conceptualised based on movies. Around the same time, few other releases like Jab Jab Phool Khile and Arzoo gave Kashmir a prominent role in Bollywood. The south Indian film industry was also not to be left behind. Early 60s saw the movie Then Nilavu starring Gemini Ganeshan in the backdrop of Kashmir. Even Bollywood’s crown prince of romance, Yash Chopra, indulged in the flavour of Kashmir with his Noorie. A trivial fact, Yash Chopra’s last creation Jab Tak Hai Jaan was also partly situated in Ladakh, another beautiful part of J&K.

Gradually the love affair between Bollywood and Kashmir veered in a new direction. With the increasing insurgency and unrest in the heavenly land, the Bollywood love stories started to see another aspect of Kashmir which set its beautiful backdrops in stark contrast against a struggle for survival. Roja, the first name that comes to my mind in this context, was a milestone in the Indian film industry. It also saw the rise of music director A R Rahaman, who went on to win an Academy Award in his later years, along with some beautiful voices like Hariharan, SP, Minmini and K S Chithra. As rightly mentioned by one of my friends, while we were on a road trip listening to “Yeh Haseen Waadiyaan” from Roja, “Hindi songs in south Indian voices are of a different league”. The south Indian vocal dominance in Bollywood gained big mileage during this time. Then came Mission Kashmir and Fanaa which carried the same flavour, with the concept continuing with Mausam.

But, what about the movies, which actually talked about the unrest of Kashmir, the unimaginable struggle of the people residing there, the sacrifices of the Indian army serving under life threatening situations 24×7? Do we have enough of them. Yes, few documentaries like Ocean of Tears created some discussion. Also, some small budget movies and features made in Kashmir like Tahaan, Sikander, Papa 2, Valley of Saints etc were critically acclaimed but failed to get the attention of movie buffs, even of the current politically aware generation. The last movie, which was based upon Kashmir’s current scenario, the one mostly talked about nowadays and able to gain some attention, is Haider. Shahid Kapoor probably gave his best ever performance in that movie and stalwarts like Tabbu and Irrfan Khan helped the directorial brilliance of Vishal Bharadwaj create a name for itself among the film lovers of India.

So, are we, the more politically aware generation of this country so naive to base our thoughts and ideas about Kashmir on the stories and pictures portrayed by a long line of corporate-run media? If not, then why are we not focussing on the art forms created on Kashmir such as various articles, books written by men and women of the land itself, movies made by Kashmiris? I, personally, am thankful to Hyderabad Bengali Film Festival, for choosing Half Widow, a film about the situation and struggle of Kashmiris, as one of their feature showcase listings. With time, I hope that films like Hamid, Tahaan, Half Widow, No Fathers in Kashmir will be a part of multiplex show timings along with commercial entertainers. Show after show of Haider going housefull it was a ray of hope and I wish it will be long lasting..