Srinagar, June 24: As Kashmir is set to get its first Multiplex Cinema owned by Dhar’s who run Delhi Public School, almost all the cinema halls located in Kashmir are in shambles turned into security garrisons while there is little government has done, either to make them operational or declare them sick units.
Before the eruption of militancy in Kashmir, the Cinema owners did a brisk business in Valley. Regal, Naaz, Shiraz, Broadway, Khayam, Neelum, Shah, Palladium and Firdous were cinemas in Srinagar where movie lovers used to flock. In other districts of Kashmir Valley there was Samad Talkies in North Kashmir’s Sopore town, Heaven Cinema in South Kashmir’s Anantnag.
Recently, it was CRPF 40 Battalion that tried to restore the defunct cinema hall ‘Heaven’ in Anantnag. However, only troopers watched the Shahid Kapoor-Shraddha Kapoor starrer ‘Batti Gul Meter Chalu’ on March 6 this year.
Some of the Cinema owners who talked to news agency KNT on condition of anonymity said that government never came forward for their help. It made only hollow claims but never compensate them for the losses they incurred. “We had requested the successive governments to declare Cinema industry as ‘sick’-so that they won’t feel much burden of losses,” they said.
Almost all the cinema halls in Kashmir have been occupied by government forces. Khayam has been converted into a hospital while a shopping complex is coming up on the ruins of Regal Cinema. “It was better for the government to take those people into confidence who already own cinema halls in Srinagar before granting permission to a new entrant. You are creating a new multiplex on the rubbles of older ones. This won’t send a good message,” said a cinema owner to KNT.
Another Cinema owner wishing not to be named said that the chances of cinema industry getting back on track are bleak. “The situation in Kashmir is unpredictable. You don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. These cinema halls will always be soft target if re-opened and still if you provide a fool proof security, people won’t visit in large numbers as we have seen in case of Neelum and Broadway,” he said adding that it is better for the government for provide financial assistance to Cinema owners so that they will be able to switch off to other businesses.
After the eruption of militancy, three cinema owners tried to resume their business with government help and these were Regal, Neelam and Broadway. However, on the day Regal reopened in September 1999, a grenade was hurled inside the theatre, killing a man from Lasjan area and injuring many others. Shameem, the brother of deceased Muhammad Hafeez told KNT that though Hafeez was not a cinema lover, but that unfortunate day, the screening was free and his friends persuaded him to watch the movie. “Little did we know, he won’t return back,” he said.
Hafeez who got killed in that grenade attack had already lost his two militant brothers, Noor-ul-Islam and Abdul Qayoom in two gunfights with Army.
The Regal attack succeeded in dissuading other theatre owners from reopening. Soon, Broadway was also closed and later taken over by a telecom company.
“Let us hope for the best. If this new multiplex cinema will be a success, we will certainly think about reviving cinema culture in Valley. There is nothing wrong in opening a cinema here. These exist across globe. Even Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries have mega multiplex cinemas where movies are screened for cinema lovers,” said a man who owns a now dilapidated cinema hall in Srinagar. (KNT)