Koimoi.com discusses the vexatious issue of reopening of cinemas in the Kashmir valley, a subject that has been brought into focus by the recent pronouncements of the former chief minister of J&K, Farooq Abdullah, as well as through an open letter penned by the producer of 3 Idiots, Vidhu Vinod Chopra.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra strongly feels that cinema halls in Kashmir should be reopened. In an open letter, he has appealed to the government to reopen cinemas in Kashmir. Only a few days earlier, the former chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, had also advocated the reopening of cinemas in Kashmir, which have been closed for more than two decades now.
Cinema halls in Kashmir are landmarks, just names, which turned into big bunkers in the early ’90s when militancy erupted in the valley. Covered by barbed wires and hanging empty liquor bottles, these few cinemas in Srinagar are the abode of the paramilitary forces. Kashmiri youngsters, especially those who were born in and after the ’80s, have never seen a movie in a cinema hall, except those who travel to Jammu or other parts of the country. Despite this virtual ban on films, the reality is that Kashmiris love Bollywood films and watch them regularly, thanks to satellite television and piracy.
Kashmiri youngsters, especially those who were born in and after the ’80s, have never seen a movie in a cinema hall
But ask any Kashmiri if the cinemas should reopen and you will not get a confident answer from him. When in other parts of India, most Fridays see young boys and girls queuing up for tickets for the latest Bollywood fare, most Fridays in Kashmir witness tension on the streets with young boys targeting paramilitary personnel (mostly outside yesteryear cinema house buildings) with stones in their hands. In doing so, they risk becoming targets of tear-gas shells or sometimes even bullets. Under such circumstances, who will worry about entertainment?
Will the reopening of cinemas make any difference? This is a question that cannot be answered easily. We can, however, hope that the reopening, when it happens, will bring a positive and the much-needed change. Still, there are certain questions that arise in one’s mind:
Who will open the cinemas?
In a city (Srinagar) where even one peaceful day cannot be guaranteed, will any business house take the risk of opening a theatre?
Where is the audience?
In the last two decades, the word ‘cinema’ has brought to mind only the images of interrogation centres, of weapons, of cross-firing, of untimely deaths and of grenade attacks, because of the occupation of the cinemas by paramilitary forces. Who will accept the same places as an entertainment venue overnight?
And last, but not the least, will the paramilitary forces leave the buildings and even if they do, where will they settle?
A cinema house is a place meant for entertainment and you can only entertain a person who is at peace. It is stability, harmony, fearlessness and, above all, the safety of people which will bring contentment to the Kashmiri people and especially to the youth.
“Cinema is not the answer…. But it can and will provide a catharsis of emotions for people who have lived in hell…”
But one can still hope that the reopening of cinemas turns about to be the happy climax and all ends well, just like it does in Bollywood films. As Vidhu Vinod Chopra, himself a Kashmiri Pandit, has written in his letter, “Cinema is not the answer to a problem as fraught as Kashmir. But it can and will provide a catharsis of emotions for people who have lived in hell for two decades now.”