Kashmir’s first ever multiplex tryst with cinema will begin on October 1 this year with the screening of two epic movies, Vikram Vedha and Ponniyin Selvan (PS)-I, at the new INOX theatre in Srinagar’s Shiv Pora area. The experience of watching a film in a theatre returns to the Valley after gap of 23 years.
Jammu & Kashmir Lieutenant-Governor Manoj Sinha will inaugurate the multiplex, which features three screens and a total seating capacity of 522, on Tuesday. Ticket sales will start on September 26, and the first show is slated for October 1. A dry run screening in the orange-ambience theatre has been completed.
“I see my dream coming true. Wholesome family entertainment had taken a back seat. When we were younger, we used to go to cinema halls in Kashmir. There were 10-12 cinema halls here,” Vikas Dhar, managing director of Taksal Hospitality Private Limited, which owns the multiplex, told The Hindu.
Eleven cinema halls dotted across the Kashmir Valley were closed in the 1990s in the face of large-scale militancy.
The Farooq Abdullah-led government in 1996 made efforts to reopen two cinema halls, Broadway and Neelam, but they failed to survive due to poor patronage. In 1999, Regal Cinema in Lal Chowk stopped a screening of Pyar Koyi Khel Nahi after militants hurled a grenade in the first week of its opening.
Now, buoyed by the changes sweeping the region, the L-G has inaugurated two cinema halls in south Kashmir’s volatile Shopian and Pulwama districts. The administration plans to have cinema halls in all 10 districts in the Valley.
“The magic of the silver screen is that you a feel part of it. You get to see your gods and heroes on the silver screen. It’s a magnified manner of seeing life. One aspires to tell his own stories,” Mr. Vikas Dhar said. “A lot of world cinema is bereft of good stories. We have phenomenal stories to tell from Kashmir. This should inspire youth to tell their own stories.”
“Half the students from the Delhi Public School [DPS] in Srinagar have never been to a cinema hall. I request them to come and enjoy the way many do in Jammu and Delhi. Bollywood’s relation with Kashmir goes back to the 1950s,” Vijay Dhar, chairperson, DPS-Srinagar, said.
Mr. Vikas Dhar is planning special offers for women and pre-1990 cine-goers of Kashmir on the first day. “We would like to attract women and people who saw cinema in its full glory in Kashmir in the past,” he said.
He also said he wasn’t worried about footfalls, adding, “This is not a business. We really wanted to bring the magic of cinema back. Success will be achieved on October 1 whether one person comes or a hundred. Showing movies on bigger screens after 35 years will be a dream come true.”