Over two decades after cinema halls were shut in Kashmir, it may soon get its first multiplex. A hospitality company has sought permission to set up a multiplex in Shivpora area in Srinagar Cantonment, a fortified location outside the headquarters of the Army’s 15 Corps at Badamibagh.
Vijay Dhar, owner of the hospitality company Taksal, said they were waiting for necessary permissions to go ahead with the plan, and the multiplex could be up and running by September-October. “My children in Kashmir should get the same facilities like other parts of the country. At present, there is no entertainment for them. I have applied for necessary permissions from the government and also the Badamibagh Cantonment Board. The multiplex will have at least three screens,” Dhar, who is also Chairman of the Delhi Public School, Srinagar, said.
Till the 1980s, there were over a dozen cinema halls located in different parts of the Valley. These were shut down due to militant diktats.
In 1999, Neelam, Regal and Broadway halls in Srinagar reopened, but hours after the inaugural show, Regal Cinema was attacked with grenades by militants, leading to the death of one. As the other two halls shut down soon after, Neelam sputtered on till 2010, but with dwindling audiences, it too downed curtains eight years ago.
“There was huge security around the cinema hall,” says Omar Imtiyaz, a local filmmaker and actor, adding that this intimidated many.
At present, most cinema halls in Kashmir are under the control of security forces, with a hotel and a hospital operating from two of them.
Of late, Bollywood has started returning to the Valley for shooting, and the Tourism Department of Kashmir has held several events in Mumbai to encourage filmmakers to come to the state.
A senior Cantonment Board official confirmed to The Indian Express that they had received the application for a multiplex. “The case is being processed and would be put up before the board for final approval,” he said, adding that he couldn’t say how much time it would take.
J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik had earlier told The Indian Express that one party had shown interest in opening a cinema hall. “They (the younger generation) have very little to do. They are interested in sports, so I have decided to pay attention to that. Another person has agreed to make a cinema hall,” he had said.
Dhar said they chose the high-security Shivpora area in Cantonment for the multiplex because they had land there, and expressed hope that others would follow this positive step. Asked if he was hopeful of a good response, Dhar said, “Why not? Last year, we had night football matches, also for the first time. One the day of the final, 7,000 people attended.”