Dr. Satwant Singh Rissam
“Kashmir is that kind of a place, I have been coming here since 1986, my father shot extensively here in Gulmarg and Sonamarg. I’ve shot in this auditorium in 2016. This place has something magical, it is such a surreal feeling coming to Kashmir, it draws the attention of everyone” said Telugu superstar Ram Charan during the G20 meeting held in Srinagar this year. This statement didn’t surprise many because Kashmir has a long history of filmmaking, with Indian producers often shooting several movies up to the 1990s. What happened after the 1990s is known to everyone and the film industry was driven out of the region.
Since then several attempts have been made to revive the film industry in Jammu – Kashmir which failed because of prevailing violence and also due to no strong support from the government. In 2021, the Jammu and Kashmir government launched a new film policy designed to attract filmmakers. The idea behind bringing this policy was to provide subsidies and make it easier to get permission to shoot movies in Jammu-Kashmir. It appears that filmmakers are drawn by subsidies offered under the new film policy. Jammu & Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha few weeks back said that more than 300 films, and shows were shot in Jammu & Kashmir after the launch of the new film policy. No doubt filmmaking has picked up pace in Kashmir and the first multiplex in 23 years also opened in the Srinagar’s Shivpora area in 2022. Although the government is creating a vibrant film ecosystem in Kashmir, little shift is needed to promote the Jammu region as a suitable destination for Bollywood for film shooting too. This will provide opportunities for the local artists to showcase their talent on big platforms.
From Shahrukh Khan to Sanjay Dutt to Karan Johar we heard all prominent Indian actors, directors, and film-production houses heading to Kashmir in the last 4 years. It is needed to end the negative perception and narrative about the Jammu region not having potential by highlighting the tourism potential of the region to Bollywood. Little activities continued before this film policy as well. In 2019, the Legislative Assembly (LA) complex in Jammu was used for shooting the web series ‘Maharani’ by renowned filmmaker Subhash Kapoor. For this web series shoot, local artists from the theatre and cultural department were roped in reflecting the massive change that can come if a halfhearted approach for the Jammu region is shunned. Then in 2021, Bollywood actor Shakti Kapoor visited the Mubarak Mandi Complex in Jammu to shoot the Punjabi film “Gangwar 84”. However, the focus should be to get some major movie projects filmed in Jammu after this film policy. Sadly, after the new film policy, most of the production applications approved for feature films, short movies, web series, and advertisements are for the Kashmir region.
This is a reflection of the other side of the new film policy as around 300 destinations have been opened for film producers and directors to choose from for shooting in Kashmir. Special efforts should be made to make Indian filmmakers flock to places in the Jammu region offering the divine natural beauty of the Shivaliks, Pir Panjal Range, Trikuta Hills, and the low-lying Tawi River basin. Several historical sites like forts, palaces, mountain peaks, scenic beauty, wildlife, and local cultures will ensure the best cinematography and growth of film tourism. Moreover, old temples, lakes, and beautiful gardens can form a natural backdrop for a film shoot in Jammu which is a glowing example of secularism and inter-religious harmony. The border destinations of the Jammu region are rich in tourism potential and these areas are also economically backward so if promoted among filmmakers, employment opportunities can be developed systematically in these border destinations.
It is the appropriate time to disseminate information about the art, culture, history, heritage, livelihood, and glorious traditions of Jammu. A check is also needed to make sure that some people in the administration do not show reluctance to give approvals to initiatives and ideas for the Jammu region on flimsy grounds. Both, J&K and the central government should undertake steps to increase the Bollywood filmmakers’ interest in these areas of Jammu as the potential of the entire region is also very attractive and unique.
Dr. Satwant Singh Rissam