Screen or smokescreen? What the return of movie halls in Kashmir means

INOX theatre in Srinagar – the Union Territory’s summer capital. Vikram Vedha and Ponniyin Selvan-I will start playing in multiplex today. Photo: Wikimedia

A full 32 years after cinema halls were forced to shut shop in Kashmir, Vikram Vedha and Ponniyin Selvan-I today will mark Kashmir’s first-ever tryst with multiplex at the new INOX theatre in Srinagar – the Union Territory’s summer capital.

On 20 September, Jammu and Kashmir’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha inaugurated INOX multiplex in Srinagar. In his congratulatory message to the INOX Group and people involved in the latest initiative to ‘revive’ cinema in Kashmir, Sinha called the return of movies to Kashmir “a reflection of a new dawn of hope, dreams, confidence, and aspirations of people”. Two days earlier, Sinha had inaugurated two multipurpose theatres in Shopian and Pulwama – the twin districts in the volatile south Kashmir.

As Bollywood flicks return to restive Kashmir after a gap of three decades, the administration in Jammu and Kashmir is claiming revival of cinema by throwing open a multiplex in Srinagar but many on the ground say that cinemas cannot be used as a normalcy indicator amid deceptive peace.

The more than three decades in which theatres were missing from Kashmir couldn’t wipe out the memories of the time when some people would draw parallels between Srinagar’s vibrant Polo View Street and London’s Piccadilly. The time when cinema, theatre, coffee houses and literary clubs were very much a part of the Valley’s socio-cultural setting and literary flavour.

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