Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt Friday described Kashmir as "a goldmine and a treasure" and said that it is time to clear the misconception that the Valley is a troubled zone. He has urged filmmakers to shoot more and more in the picturesque region, which reigned supreme till a bruising insurgency broke out in the late 1980s.
Kashmir was once Bollywood's favourite shooting destination and the industry needs to return to the Valley, said Bhatt, actress Deepti Naval and Kashmir tourism director Talat Parvez at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Tourism Summit here.
"It is a monumental tragedy that we don't think of going to Kashmir. We need to remove the misconception from the people's mind that it is a troubled zone. Kashmir is a goldmine, a treasure box and we don't use it. Instead, we go abroad because of our misconceptions," he said.
From "Do Badan" to "Heena" to "Rocky" - all these movies were shot in the picturesque Kashmir Valley and in the last few years, Shah Rukh Khan and Ranbir Kapoor-Deepika Padukone shot for "Jab Tak Hai Jaan" and "Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani" there.
Recently, Imtiaz Ali shot for his upcoming road movie "Highway" in the Valley with Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda. Reports are that even Sushant Singh will also shoot there. But the trend has yet to gather momentum.
Tourism experts feel that Bollywood can be instrumental in augmenting tourism in the state.
Some parts of super-duper hit "3 Idiots" were filmed in Ladakh region and Parvez said that the fact that tourism went from 15,000 to 1.5 lakh post the film, which captured the scenic Pangong Lake, itself indicates Bollywood's power to drive tourism.
"In the 1960s and 1970s, movies were shot in Kashmir and the places became known by the film or the stars in it," he added.
Citing the example of Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh's 1983 hit debut "Betaab", Parvez said: "Such was the craze that after 'Betaab', an area near Pahalgam came to be known as Betaab Valley.
"After '3 Idiots', the tourism in Kashmir tripled and people came to see Rancho's school."
The Valley was literally out of bounds for Bollywood for over two decades after separatist violence started there in early 1990s.
Parvez gave credit to Vidhu Vinod Chopra's 2000 release "Mission Kashmir" for reviving the trend.
"Bollywood movies have returned to Kashmir and the return started with 'Mission Kashmir'," he added.
Shooting in Kashmir is easy, said Parvez and pointed out that the snow, lakes, blooms, mountains, good weather and hassle-free shooting procedures are the main attractions that draw filmmakers to the Valley.
Such was the power of the Valley that it drew veteran actress Deepti Naval all the way from New York to Mumbai to become an actress.
"After my college, I came from New York to Mumbai to become an actress. I was amazed by Kashmir's beauty and wanted to become an actress only so that I can shoot there. But with the kind of films I did, none of them were shot there, barring a role in 'Saudagar'," she said.
She then recalled an incident where she and her good friend, the late Farooque Sheikh, lamented on their love for Kashmir and how they were never able to shoot there.
"Me and Farooque were in Sarjah a few days back, and we spoke about our romance with the Hindi cinema. We said that everything that drew us to become an actor was because of Kashmir, but we couldn't shoot there," Deepti said.