Bollywood’s eternal romance with Kashmir lives on By Sheikh Qayoom and Aadil Mir 

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Srinagar, April 12 (IANS) Bollywood’s romance with Kashmir that began in the 1960s and blossomed in the 1970s and 1980s, was interrupted for over two decades by violence that plagued the Valley. Bollywood then shifted its outdoor shoots to Europe and America. As violence began waning, Bollywood like a smitten lover, rebounded to its old love.

To encourage Bollywood’s return to the Valley, the state government has been extending all possible help to film units during their stay here.

“We are hopeful of more and more B-town biggies to the Valley as we welcome them with open arms. We are the most affordable place in the world with most beautiful locations,” Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation Managing Director and Director Tourism Farooq Ahmad Shah told IANS.

Hoteliers, too, are more than happy.

“We hosted many film units in our hotel, we want to serve them as better as we can, we want the message of peace and beauty to go out, so that more and more people come here,” Asif Burza of Pine and Peak Hotel in Pahalgam told IANS.

It was at this hotel that Yash Chopra and his star cast for “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” stayed while shooting for the film.

Addressing an election rally last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also echoed the need for Bollywood to return to Kashmir for the benefit of both.

“I have to bring back Bollywood to Kashmir,” Modi told the rally, adding, “I have to bring back tourism to the state and I have to make Jammu and Kashmir the ultimate tourist destination in the world.”

Leading the legion of Bollywood’s eternal love for the breathtaking locales of Kashmir are the present-day heart throbs of the celluloid world – Shah Rukh Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor and others.

“Jab Tak Hai Jaan”, “Rockstar”, “Student of the Year”, “Yeh Jawani Hai Dewani” and “Haider” are Bollywood’s assertions that nothing can keep it away from Kashmir’s meadows, mountains, lakes and streams that continue to serve as mesmerizing backdrops to the movies shot in the Valley of Flowers.

“Kashmir is a beautiful place. If one sets up camera anywhere in Kashmir he will be able to appreciate its beauty. We will all cherish the hospitality and facilities we got here,” said Shah Rukh Khan, during his extensive shoot for “Jab Tak Hai Jaan”.

Personally also, Kashmir has worked wonders for Shah Rukh. While shooting for “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” in Pahalgam, he had told IANS that he assigned a ringtone to his mobile phone after years because his nerves had been soothed by the magic that Kashmir holds for everybody.

After the unprecedented floods hit Kashmir last September, film shoots scheduled for autumn in the Valley had to be cancelled, triggering uncertainty about the resumption of schedules here.

The first Bollywood unit to return to the Valley after the floods was that of “Fitoor”.

“Fitoor” was scheduled to be filmed in the Valley “but the floods intervened. The unit then planned to go to Poland. We requested them not to cancel their Kashmir schedule and they agreed after being assured that things had settled down here”, Khawer Jamsheed, a line producer in the Valley, told IANS.

“After Rekha, Katrina and Aditiya Roy Kapoor came here to shoot for ‘Fitoor’ a message of normalcy went out. Shortly afterwards, Yami Gautam and Pulkit Samrat came here to shoot ‘Jononiyat’,” said Jamsheed, who is now awaiting star-studded “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” with Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Nawazudin Siddique.

The unit arrives here later this month.

“Many producers have contacted me for their shoots in the Valley. I conveyed it to everyone that it is quite peaceful here and anyone can come here,” Jamsheed added.

Trying to emerge from the nightmare of last year’s floods, Kashmir is eagerly looking forward to rekindle the magic and beauty of Bollywood, for which Kashmir and its people have always been brand ambassadors.

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