Calling it “a historic day”, Jammu and Kashmir lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha on Sunday inaugurated two cinema halls in south Kashmir’s Pulwama and Shopian districts and said people, especially the younger generation, have waited for a long time for this moment.
It comes ahead of the opening of the first multiplex in Srinagar later this year. In Kashmir, cinema halls were forced to shut in the early 1990s amid spread of terrorism. The newly opened ones in Pulwama and Shopian offer facilities ranging from movie screening, infotainment and skilling of youth.
Sinha’s office tweeted photos showing the lieutenant governor attending a screening of the Bollywood movie ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’. The L-G sat with Kashmir divisional commissioner Pandurang K Pole and additional director general of police, Vijay Kumar as security men stood guard inside the hall.
“A historic day for J&K UT! Inaugurated multipurpose cinema halls at Pulwama and Shopian. It offers facilities ranging from movie screening, infotainment and skilling of youth,” Sinha said in a tweet.
The development comes amid efforts by the Jammu & Kashmir Film Development Council (JKFDC) to promote the Union territory as a destination for shooting and production of movies and shows.
Divisional commissioner, Kashmir, Pandurang K Pole told HT that these are multipurpose, multimedia halls used for cinema purposes as well as training of youth.
“They have an overall seating capacity of up to 100 each. They have multimedia technology which will be used for skill enhancement like BPO training, attending lectures from technical persons and completing courses run by mission youth,” he added.
He said that they will be run by the government. “These are multipurpose halls for educational, scientific, social awareness and information dissemination besides the cinema use,” he said.
Kashmir is all set to get its first multiplex cinema by a private player later this year after three decades in Srinagar. A Kashmiri Pandit business family from Srinagar has completed the construction of a multiplex, INOX, at Shivpora near Badami Bagh Cantonment with three auditoriums, food court and a total seating capacity of 520.
“That is a private enterprise and is complete and will be opening shortly,” Pole said
Around 15 standalone cinema halls were functioning in the Valley till the late 1980s, nine of them in Srinagar alone, but the owners faced threats from terrorist groups prompting them to shut shops.
Over the years, attempts were made to reopen some of the theatres but were closed owing to low response amid the daily violence and also militant attacks. Neelam and Broadway cinemas were opened in high security areas of Srinagar but were closed again. A grenade attack on Regal Cinema in the heart of city centre Lal Chowk killed a person and wounded around a dozen others on the very first day it was reopened in September 1999.
Many former theatres and cinemas have been converted into shopping complexes, nursing homes and some have been occupied by the paramilitary forces.
Establishment of the cinema halls in district headquarters has been undertaken by the government’s Mission Youth Department in collaboration with the district administration. Cinema Halls in Anantnag, Srinagar, Bandipora, Ganderbal, Doda, Rajouri, Poonch, Kishtwar and Reasi will be inaugurated soon, the government said.
“Cinema is a powerful creative medium which reflects culture, values and aspirations of the people. It opens the door to the world of knowledge, new discoveries, and enables people to get a better understanding of each-other’s culture,” the L-G said.
“J&K has a long association with the world of cinema. The new film policy and facilities created has once again made J&K the favourite shooting destination and brought back the golden era of film-making in the UT,” he added.