Kashmir, poetically referred to as 'paradise on earth' for its bewitching beauty, was the favourite destination for filmmakers until violence, crackdown and curfew became part of its lexicon. But, if the recent rush of film units to the region is any indication, Omar Abdullah government's efforts to woo Bollywood to Kashmir seem to be bearing fruit.
While Ekta Kapoor has signed Imtiaz Ali's brother, Sajid, for a love story set in Kashmir, the first schedule of Abhishek Kapoor's Fitoor and Vivek Agnihotri's next film will soon take off in the region. Kabir Khan, too, is gearing up to take his Bajrani Bhaijaan cast and crew up there. In July this year, Kabir had a two-week schedule in Kashmir for his upcoming film, Phantom, that was shot in the ski resorts of Gulmarg and Pahalgam.
In the recent past, films like Haider, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Rockstar, Highway and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani have been shot in the region. Actor Anupam Kher, who was in Kashmir and visited the sets of Fitoor, says, "Many filmmakers are going to Kashmir as it serves as the backdrop of their stories but we are yet to see people go and shoot there for its sheer beauty. I feel it will eventually happen.
Of course Bollywood going there is a sign of changing times. People have understood that development and infrastructure is the way forward, not divisive forces who scheme and manipulate them. There is a lot of local talent which is getting a chance to work too." A tourism official in Kashmir says steps are being taken to make it easier for Bollywood to shoot, adding, "We are trying to start a single window clearance for the convenience of film crew."
Filmmaker Ashoke Pandit, who visited the Valley for BJP's political campaign, says, "We are going to initiate academies for cinema education and will encourage the film fraternity to shoot there more often with the promise that they would get local government's support. Instead of standard locations, Filmmakers must explore Baramullah, Shopian and Dachhigam."