Mission Kashmir

Kashmir is becoming the preferred destination for television shoots.

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Published:May 28, 2013 5:52 am

When Anandi,one of television’s most popular leading ladies,married Shiv in Balika Vadhu(Colors),it was a much-anticipated event among the show’s viewers. To mark the beginning of Anandi’s new,happy life,makers of Balika Vadhu decided to show the couple on honeymoon. Their destination of choice was India’s own paradise,Kashmir. “We had the option of going to an international destination such as the US or Dubai. We chose Kashmir because it is exotic yet believable since the characters are essentially villagers,” says Prashant Bhatt,Weekday Programming Head,Colors.

Kashmir first made an appearance on Indian television in 1991 with the show Gul Gulshan Gulfaam that aired on DD National. Centred around the impact terrorism was having on life in the Valley,it was indicative of what would follow in the region. Soon after,the terror-torn state became inaccessible and Kashmir — once a favourite among filmmakers — almost vanished from the screen,both big and small.

This changed recently when the government started to once again promote tourism in the region. After major Bollywood films such as Yash Chopra’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar and yet-to-release Highway shot sequences in Kashmir,the Valley began to gain weight among television producers too. Apart from Balika Vadhu,Jaan,a love story that will go on air next month on Life OK,and the latest small-screen adaptation of Mahabharat for Star Plus have also explored Kashmir.

Both Bhatt and Saurabh Tewari,whose Nautanki Films produces Jaan,believe that the way was shown by Chopra,who shot chunks of his multi-starrer,big-budget film in the Valley. While Balika Vadhu and Mahabharat use Kashmir for cosmetic reasons,Tewari says the locale is an integral part of Jaan as the story revolves around a girl from a Kashmiri Pandit family.

Kashmir’s tourism department too,is doing all it can to encourage producers of films and television to use the state as a location. Apart from facilitating permissions to shoot across landmarks such as Dal Lake and Tulip Garden,they ensure full security for crew and cast members since the tension still persists. Siddharth Kumar Tewary of Swastik Films,which is producing Mahabharat,recounts a pleasant stay.

The Jaan team,however,wasn’t as lucky. The crew had to delay the shoot several times on account of bad weather. “Then Yasin Mallik’s arrest caused the city to shut down,” he recounts,adding that they also received a call from Hurriyat when the party members found out that they were shooting a sequence based on the fatwa issued to the Kashmiri all-girl rock band.

Since shoots stopped in Kashmir almost two decades ago,the region isn’t exactly shoot-friendly either. The makers of the shows explain that one cannot find basics such as vanity vans and shoot equipment there as one would in many other states. Also,with the terror-torn state trying to get back on its feet,other resources too are lacking. “For instance,the art department needed to source a certain cloth material,which would have been a 10-minute job in Mumbai,but we couldn’t find it easily in Kashmir,” says Tewari.

The problems one faces while shooting in the Valley are made up by the variety of landscapes that the state has to offer. If Srinagar has Pari Mahal and Dal Lake,Gulmarg has snow and mountains,and greenery and lakes are the key features of Pehelgam. “I believe that Mahabharat isn’t mythology but history. In that era,India must have been as beautiful as New Zealand is. Kashmir is the only place in India that matches up,” Tewary says. Adds Bhatt,“The place is struggling to return to normalcy with the tourism department working hard towards promoting it. A few episodes of a popular TV show shot in Kashmir will be more effective than a tourism ad.”

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