About 55 minutes into Mani Ratnam’s Roja, newlywed couple Rishi (Arvind Swami) and Roja (Madhu) find themselves all alone, surrounded by the snow-kissed peaks and the clear blue skies of Kashmir—Puthu Vellai Mazhai (Yeh haseen vadiyan, yeh khula aasmaan, the Hindi version of the song). As Roja—who has never experienced snow before—slips, trips and falls on the snow, she also falls passionately in love with her husband.
In a way, this scene—love blooming in the verdant Valley—epitomised the image of Kashmir portrayed in Indian films—a land of dreams and dreamers, of lovers and honeymooners, of beauty and limitless possibilities.
For ordinary movie-goers of the pre-1990s, Kashmir was synonymous with heaven on earth. Apart from the famous proclamation by the 17th century Mughal emperor Jehangir—Gar Firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast (If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here)—the images evoked in Indian cinema particularly sealed that idea of Kashmir for most Indians. Tamil Nadu was no exception.
The 1961 film, Then Nilavu (Honeymoon), starring Gemini Ganesan and Vyjayanthimala, was the first South Indian film to be shot in Kashmir.
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