tv & movies

As Bollywood prepares to return to Kashmir, a look back at its love affair with the valley

Bollywood's love story with the picturesque Kashmir dates back to the 1960s and 70s. Shammi Kapoor immortalised 'shikara' on the Dal Lake in the song "Tareef karun kya uski" as he wooed a beautiful Sharmila Tagore in Kashmir Ki Kali.

The Indian film industry is rekindling its romance with Kashmir — a destination once a favourite of the filmmakers and the audience alike. Soon, the valley will have the cameras set on its blooming tulips, placid lakes, coniferous trees and the Dal Lake.

On Sunday, Jammu and Kashmir LG Manoj Sinha met Bollywood filmmakers including Ekta Kapoor, Dinesh Vijan, Imtiaz Ali, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and Nitesh Tiwari among others in Mumbai. He invited them to shoot in the Valley and, also discussed how the shooting of films can be made business-friendly in the Union Territory.

Bollywood’s love story with the picturesque Kashmir dates back to the 1960s and 70s. Back then, scores of films were set in the backdrop of the beautiful locales of the Valley. Some of the most romantic and evergreen songs were picturised in the snow-clad hills and lush green locales of Jammu & Kashmir. In 1961, Shammi Kapoor romanced Saira Banu in the snow-capped mountains in Srinagar as he sang “Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe”. He immortalised the ‘shikara’ on the Dal Lake in the song “Tareef karun kya uski” as he wooed a beautiful Sharmila Tagore in Kashmir Ki Kali (1964).

Films like Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965), Aarzoo (1965), Janwar (1965), Roti (1974), and Mere Sanam (1965) etched a beautiful picture of the valley and, for those growing up in urban India, visiting Kashmir, the ‘paradise on earth’, became a dream. Filmmakers captured nature in its full glory and it eventually gave a fillip to the tourism sector. People who could not visit scenic Sonamarg meadows, Mughal Gardens, Gulmarg or Pahalgam, enjoyed their serenity through the lens of filmmakers.

In the late 1970s and early 80s, cinephiles witnessed Yash Chopra’s love affair with the beguiling beauty of Kashmir in superhits like Kabhi Kabhie (1976), Noorie (1979) and Silsila (1981). However, by the 1990s, the region witnessed some of the most violent times. And, Kashmir found a new narrative in cinema. The stories got consumed by the tension in the Valley. Mani Ratnam’s Roja (1992) and Dil Se (1998) was set against the backdrop of political turmoil in Kashmir. Mission Kashmir (2000) and Yahaan (2005) also showcased the unrest in the region. However, the rising tensions there forced filmmakers to shoot elsewhere even as they ostensibly showed Kashmir, a case in point being Roja. Mani Ratnam had planned to shoot the film in Kashmir but ended up shifting it to   Coonoor, Ooty, and Manali.

Eventually, film producers and directors became hesitant to shift base to the Valley as a sense of fear and uncertainty engulfed Bollywood’s once favourite backdrop. They preferred to shoot in various other regions of the country and also on the foreign shores. The exquisite locales of Ooty formed the backdrop for many other Bollywood films like Hum Aapke Hain Koun!, Maine Pyar Kiya, Deewana and Dil Se. Also, touristy landmarks of London, Paris, New York and Switzerland replaced Sonamarg, Srinagar, Gulmarg and Pahalgam.

But, now that the film directors and producers plan to return to the bay, we revisit some recent films that were shot in Kashmir.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012)

Veteran filmmaker Yash Chopra who seemed to have a special connection with Kashmir shot his last film there. It was also actor Shah Rukh Khan’s maiden visit to the Valley after which he hoped “more filmmakers will come to Kashmir”. The love saga brought back the romantic essence of the valley. It had Anushka Sharma dancing on a shikara on the Dal Lake in the song “Jiya Re”. Several other portions of the film were shot across the serene locales of Kashmir including lush locales of Aru, a hill station to the north of Pahalgam.

Highway (2014)

Filmmaker Imtiaz Ali is known for making his films aesthetically beautiful. He did something similar with Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda’s road film Highway. Few scenes of the movie were shot at Gujjar Basti, Aru in Kashmir’s Pahalgam. Ali was also among the first few directors to revive Bollywood’s lost relationship with Kashmir with his film Rockstar in 2011.

Haider (2014)

Filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj tried to show Kashmir from the ‘inside’ in his screen adaptation of Shakespearean play Hamlet. “It was the political turmoil and the 25 years of tragedy of Kashmir” that compelled Bhardwaj to set his film in the valley. The Shahid Kapoor, Tabu and Shraddha Kapoor starrer was filmed at Pahalgam, Kehribal area in Anantnag, Mattan, Aishan Sahab Zaina Kadal Bridge in old Srinagar, Nishat Bagh, Qazigund, Martand Sun Temple, Naseem Bagh (at Kashmir University Garden), Hazratbal and Sonamarg.

Perhaps, along with films such as Hamid and Lost Fathers of Kashmir, it also addressed the demand that Kashmir, when represented through the Bollywood lens, shows Kashmir as a place of pristine beauty without showing its truths. The film went beyond just stories set in Kashmir.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015)

The Kabir Khan directorial Bajrangi Bhaijaan starring Salman Khan in the lead role was shot at picturesque locations across the Valley including at the famous resorts of Pahalgam and Gulmarg. The song “Bhar Do Jholi Meri” was shot at a famous shrine in Ashmuqam area of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. While shooting for the film, Salman had written on Twitter, “KASHMIR bahut AMEER in natural beauty… Maashallah  Maashallah.” The climax of Bajrangi Bhaijaan was shot at Sonmarg near the Thajiwas glacier.

Raazi (2018)

Set during the 1971 India-Pakistan war and based on the book ‘Calling Sehmat‘, Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi was shot in parts of Kashmir. For Meghna, it was like reliving memories of her childhood when she visited the sets of her father Gulazar’s films. Talking about the destination, Meghna had shared, “Coming back to Kashmir, the connect is explicable. I don’t know whether it’s because the place is so beautiful or because of the people here who are so beautiful.”

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