Muzafar Ahmad Bhat: Kashmir valley has been abundantly blessed with a bounty of the richest natural beauty and resources. It would not look out of place if inserted in a frame within the works of James Cameron, the great visionary director. The lifeblood of Kashmir’s economy and the beating heart of its peoples is located in cultural exploration, tourism and hospitality.
Our parents regale with tales from the days of yore about how they used to spend an evening out on the town. Trawling through cinema halls, enjoying music and social entertainment, coming home when the moon lay overhead upon the horizons. Back in the day, I am told that these now abandoned cinema houses ran packed with the hottest blockbusters of Indian cinema.
It conveys mixed feelings when they share these stories with us now. When these places like Shiraz, Palladium, Neelam etc. have a gaunt and skeletal look. Some other cinema halls like Regal or Broadway when opened in 1999, bore the brunt of brutally fanatical ideologues. Due to this, an entire generation of youths have been deprived of the true joy and pleasure of viewing movies. The movies are in and of themselves, a subliminal psychologically uplifting experience, but it is also the cumulative experience that the cinema offers, we are robbed of. Youth, including myself, such a thing as narrated by my elders seems unfathomable. Unfortunatly, we have grown up experiencing a different reality than our former generations. We have learned to navigate and construct our own lived realities within constructs of strife, violence and unwavering tension. It is this which has moulded our minds, and shaped our character as we step out into the world to make our mark.
Inevitably, we must understand that the world outside our bubble is informed by the subliminal messaging from various forms of mass media including television, radio, cinema etc. It is not that we are wholly deprived of entertainment altogether. After all, we do have televisions at home on which the family watches movies together.
Cinemas are not just entertainment but also are a mirror to society’s greatest infractions, defections, and an ode to the ever enduring and resilient spirit of mankind. From commercial cinema, we gain entertainment and distractions, an escape from the mundane realities of our shared collective life experience. Parallel cinematic works dare the audience to think differently, and ruminate on various social or political issues in order to effect some change in the status quo.
Movies are a passionate, evocative form of self expression, and conveying that vision to a larger demographic. Movies let us dream, hope for something greater than life itself. In that instant while watching the silver screen frames glide by before our eyes, seeds of aspiration and hope take birth, serving as a propellant for dreams. Fuelled by the innate fire within them, and the social conditioning, Kashmiris are striving towards upward social mobility and creating better standards of living for themselves and their loved ones. We can build a vision for our Kashmir; One where we assert that artists and arts-related businesses are among Kashmir’s greatest cultural resource.
We must aim to increase artists’ capacity to engage in commerce, and thereby foster and grow the creative economy, boost cultural tourism to the region. With the resurrection of cinema halls, we can endeavour to promote in the community, the centrality of art and individualistic expression in our lives.
To achieve these goals, I think the time is ripe for collaborative opportunity creation with the government, business leaders, entrepreneurs, community elders for the emergence of a new, hope filled era. There are several budding and undiscovered local artistes in our community. Resurrection of cinema houses will bring additional employment opportunities to the youths, and bolster the local economy.
When the aimless youths are more effectively employed, they get a sense of purpose and are weaned away from detrimental activities, and harmful separatist ideologies. Further our youth will get an opportunity to explore their own talent pool, and showcase their mettle if we put up theaters as well.
Not just cinemas but also plays can be deeply informative and entertaining to the human consciousness. An amalgam of the elderly and the new generation should be undertaken to promote the wide spread of our rich heritage in the valley and far beyond the boundaries too.
Views are personal.