LG Sinha Inaugurates a Multiplex in Kashmir, Promises Return of 'Lost' Entertainment
Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Tuesday inaugurated the first multiplex in Srinagar after cinema halls remained out of bounds for over three decades in the region amidst threats from militant groups and a hostile population.
Sinha called it part of a "major socio-economic revolution" that he said began three years back after he cut the ribbon at the newly constructed multiplex in the Sonwar area of the summer capital. The multiplex will have three screens and be opened for the public on September 30 with at least two Bollywood movie releases.
Sinha highlighted the connection of the Bollywood film industry with the picturesque locations of Kashmir valley, stating that the move will bring back the lost era again. The multiplex in Srinagar is among the dozen others that the authorities in J&K are opening as part of measures to bring social and economic changes to the restive territory. The hall is built close to an army cantonment.
"It is the picture of changing Kashmir that people shall witness on 70 mm screen," LG Sinha said during his address.
He also highlighted the importance and contribution of cinema to social progress and development; he said it also captured and reflected all social changes.
"There used to be a time when people throng to watch movies with friends and families. Cinema would provide them opportunities to think and dream big besides entertaining them," Sinha said.
The LG said the administration is planning to open multipurpose cinema halls in each district under the government's Mission Youth. Earlier on Sunday, work on two cinema halls in South Kashmir's Shopian and Pulwama districts was completed that the administration said will support movie screening, infotainment and skill development of youth.
The authorities are also planning to establish a film city in the region in the coming months. "We will give a lot of incentives to young filmmakers under the new film policy so that local employment is generated," Sinha said while taking a dig at former J&K governments that he accused of being complicit in keeping means of entertainment at bay.
Owner of the multiplex Vijay Dhar, 80, said it was a dream come true for him and his family, who have been planning the movie hall for years.
"We did not face any issue or difficulty because the J&K administration was at our back and was continuously monitoring the work," he said.
The first movie hall was opened in Kashmir around 1932 by Kashmir Talkies, later named Palladium Cinema. In the 1960s and 70s, Kashmir emerged as one of the key film destinations for its natural landscape as it provided a cheap alternative to filming in Europe, primarily Switzerland. It was during this time that many movie halls came up. But, by the end of the 1980s, they were shut down due to the outbreak of the armed rebellion.
The movie halls in Srinagar, which included Regal, Palladium, Firdaus, Neelam, Shiraz, Broadway and Shah Cinema, lay in ruin or were occupied by security forces as violence surged in the region. Attempts were made to revive some of the halls, including Broadway and Neelam, but most people avoided them in the wake of threats from militant outfits.
But, not everyone in the valley is equally enthusiastic. Many believe opening cinema halls is hardly good news amidst the ongoing crackdown and heightened tension.
"Always better to have avenues for entertainment and to open a cinema is welcome. However, when such projects are projected to further political discourse, things become rancid. PS: It's not a 30-year wait. Broadway, Neelum cinema reopened in 1999, but both closed down soon after," National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi tweeted.
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