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Will Kashmir film festival revive cinema in the conflicted region?

Qazi Wasif
22nd Nov 2017
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We have failed to provide the younger generation of Kashmir with means of entertainment, says Naeem Akhtar.

The second edition of the Kashmir World Film Festival (KWFF) was greeted with a lot of enthusiasm and support from the people of Srinagar. It was attended by eminent personalities of Hindi film industry such as Rajat Kapoor, Govind Nihalani, Aruna Raje Patel, Saeed Akhtar Mirza. Besides artists from Mumbai, local talent, Muzamil Ibrahim, Phunsuk Ladaki and a young filmmaker Rahat Kazmi were also present at the festival.

All those who attended the event, reiterated the need to bring back the culture of cinema to Kashmir.

The event, which began on November 1 and ended on November 5, was inaugurated by the Minister of Public Affairs, Naeem Akhtar, at Tagore Hall, Srinagar. Speaking about the revival of cinema in Kashmir, Akhtar said that, earlier, going for movies was a part of the family life in Kashmir. It used to be an event where families would come together and enjoy watching a film. But we have failed to provide the younger generation of Kashmir with means of entertainment.

Before 1989, Kashmir used to be the favourite spot for film makers who used flock to the state to shoot their movies in its beautiful locales.
The whole world now has cinema; countries like Pakistan have theatres and even Saudi Arabia is opening them. I do not know why people do not think about opening movie theatres in Kashmir, said Akhtar.

The event was organised by Actors Creative Theatre (ACT), a non-profit organisation. According to them, around 25 films were screened at the festival. These were not just movies from Bollywood and Hollywood, but also local movies made by students from various colleges and universities.

Saaz, Kotar Baaz, Bangar Bazaar were a few of the Kashmiri films screened at the five-day festival.

On the inaugural day, the first Kashmiri feature film Mainz-Raat produced in 1964, was screened. Image Credit: Qazi Wasif

Day four was reserved for the special screening of children’s films, and kids from various schools came to watch them.

The award ceremony was held on the last day with FTII gold medalist Aruna Raje Patel as the jury chairperson. While students of the Central University of Kashmir won the special jury award for Bangar Baazaar directed by Muqeet-ul-Amin, The Lake Town directed by Sana Irshad Mattoo won the award for the best short film.

Director of the event, Mushtaq Ali Khan, said, "We started with the first Kashmiri black and white movie as not many people know about it."

Praising the efforts of Mushtaq Ali, eminent film director Govind Nihalani said that the aim of the festival was to take Kashmir to the world and bring the world to Kashmir. “We would love to hear stories from Kashmir,” he added.

Speaking of the film festival, veteran actress Aruna Raje Patel remarked, “It’s a movement and it’s here to stay forever. I wish theatres open again in Kashmir.”
Image Credit: Qazi Wasif

Besides the film screenings, a workshop on ‘Introduction to Cinema’ was also conducted for media students and cinema lovers. Rajit Kapoor, Muzzamil Ibrahim and other actors interacted with the students and shared with them their experiences of working in the film industry.

Meanwhile, talking to the reporters, Naeem Akhtar said that the state government would like to take the initiative to re-open cinemas in Kashmir.

During the insurgency in 1989, all nine movie theatres of Kashmir were closed. Since then, the government’s efforts to revive cinema has been a failed affair.

Before 1989, Kashmir used to be the favourite spot for film makers who used flock to the state to shoot their movies in its beautiful locales. Recently Kashmir started to attract Bollywood again with movies such as Rockstar, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and others being shot in the valley.

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